Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh is one of Europe’s most significant auteur filmmakers. He has lived his passion for over 50 years and will, as he once put it, “still be a fucking artist when he retires”. Leigh’s ability to enthuse critics and viewers alike with such films as HIGH HOPES (1988), NAKED (1993), SECRETS & LIES (1996) and HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008) is underpinned by countless awards, including a Golden Palm and seven Academy Award nominations. Raised in a working-class district of Manchester, Leigh is able to capture the sorrows and hardships of the ‘common people’ with humor and sensitivity. He is one of the leading exponents of New British Cinema, a genus of filmmaking that has performed a cinematic analysis of social developments in Britain since the 1980s. Mike Leigh will accept his award in person during the Award Night on October 3. ZFF offers insight into his work with a representative retrospective screened in his honor.

Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes is one of the most interesting personalities of the current independent cinema scene. Born 1961 in Los Angeles, the screenwriter and director is considered to be the pioneer of the 1990s coined “New Queer Cinema”. Haynes continually succeeds in undermining traditional narrative structures with his uncompromising and often sublimely erotic films. His directorial debut, the science fiction drama POISON, garnered the main award at Sundance in 1991. This master of semiotics has since picked up more than 46 international awards, including the Special Jury Prize at Cannes for his glam rock homage VELVET GOLDMINE (1998), the Special Jury Prize at the Mostra in Venice for his Bob Dylan biopic I’M NOT THERE (2007), and an Academy Award nomination for FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002).

Jean-Jacques Annaud

Born in 1943, the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud began his career with a bang: his debut feature LA VICTOIRE EN CHANTANT, a parable about colonialism, won an Academy Award in 1977. Originally active in the advertising sector, Annaud’s name reached beyond the circle of purely French cineastes to include a much wider audience when he directed the multi award-winning literary adaptation THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986). His boundless curiosity and enthusiasm for spectacular themes enables him over and again to bridge the gap between art and commerce. The director of such cinema hits as SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997) and ENEMY AT THE GATES (2001) offers insight into his multifaceted work at this ZFF Masters session.

Sabine Gisiger

"A life lived lead to material for films and the questions that arise from them," aptly described by the film magazine Frame about the films of Sabine Gisiger. It had always been the existential questions of life, which the Zurich-based filmmaker wanted to explore in her documentaries. The 56-year old has been working in the film industry since 1990 and now shares her knowledge with film students as a lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts. One of her biggest successes is DO IT, the recipient of the Swiss Film Prize, in which she takes an uninhibited look at the history of Swiss terrorism. For GAMBIT, a documentary about the chemical disaster in Seveso, Italy in the 1970s, won the Critics Week Award in Locarno four years later and was garnered with the Max Ophüls Prize and the Swiss Film Prize. In her latest film DÜRRENMATT, a love story, Sabine Gisiger attempts to retrace Dürrenmatt's marriage to Lotti through archival material, a marriage that she herself has witnessed from up close as Friedrich Dürrenmatt was often a guest in Gisiger parents's home.

Luis Miñarro

The Catalonian producer and director Luis Miñarro is considered one of the foremost proponents of Spanish auteur cinema. Like no other he especially defends the visual aspect of cinema. "It's totally ok that many people consider cinema as mere entertainment. For me, however, it is primarily art," Miñarro remarked in an interview with a Spanish film magazine. He has produced over 30 films with his production company, Eddie Saeta, founded in 1989, including festival favorites such as FINISTERRAE and LA MOSQUITERA. He was honored at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 with the Palme d'Or for the international co-production UNCLE BOONMEE WHO. Four years later, he completed his first feature film as a director with Stella Cadente. The film was received with two Gaudi Awards. The latest news was not a film announcement rather the headlines were about the closure of his production company. Despite its impressive filmography and international recognition, the producer had difficulties convincing both critics and backers, especially in his homebase, of his radically unconventional projects. But Miñarro has plans of retiring from filmmaking. His second directorial effort SALOME will shake up international film festivals in 2016.

Gabriel Mascaro

Gabriel Mascaro is one of the most innovative, daring and successful Brazilian directors and artists of recent years, and that at just 32 years. His filmography includes six feature films to date, including four documentaries and two feature films, as well as various video installations. In his films Mascaro explores the boundaries between fiction and documentary. His avant-garde hybrid films bring the physical and sensual aspects of their protagonists into the foreground and combine traditional forms of storytelling in cinema with elements of the visual arts. For this reason, his works can also be found time and again in contemporary art exhibitions and museums. His biggest film success to date is titled VENTOS DE AGOSTO, which IndieWire described as a "beautiful meditation on life and death". The first feature film from Mascaro was honored among others at the Brazilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema and the Film Festival Locarno. Gabriel Mascaro has already appeared with his documentary DOMESTICA in the section "New World View" at Zurich Film Festival in 2013. This year he presents his second feature film BOI NEON in Zurich.

Ulrich Seidl

Werner Herzog considers him one of his favorites, Michael Haneke values his radicalism, countless young filmmakers are influenced by his visual language: We are talking about Ulrich Seidl, one of Austria’s most important filmmakers. Exploring the fine line between fiction and documentary, his film projects are fascinating and unsettling, seemingly far from reality yet disturbingly close to it. His body of works includes such award-winning films as TIERISCHE LIEBE, MODELS, and HUNDSTAGE. Seidl caused a sensation last year with his PARADIES trilogy, which won prizes at various festivals. PARADIES: GLAUBE was even honored with the prestigious Jury Award at Venice Film Festival. At the ZFF MASTERS, Ulrich Seidl offers us insight into his work: What fascinates him about the blending of documentary and fiction? How does he get to know his film’s protagonists?