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 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).
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.
Dick Pope's passion and enthusiasm begins when reading scripts in which images blossom. Having studied painting and photography his whole life, the 68-year old Brite has been an avid photographer himself since childhood. In THE REFLECTING SKIN, one of his early films, the disturbing images that draw their inspiration from Andrew Wyeth is directly reflected. In Mike Leigh's MR. TURNER last year, he created another visual tribute to a great painter with his cinematography: Meticulous studies of lighting moods at all times of the day and whatever the weather allowed for exterior shots, the light and color applied to the canvas without CGI effects "Turneresque" - breathtaking work for which he was awarded in Cannes. Pope's collaboration with Mike Leigh goes back many years. Since LIFE IS SWEET, it has been Dick Pope's lifelike settings, landscapes of the human face, and authenticity that make Mike Leigh's films cinematographically so unique.
"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.
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.
Ruth Toma was born in 1956 in Lower Bavaria. After state exams at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich she started off as an actress and author in the independent theater group "Temporary Structures" and was active for nine years. Then she attended top postgraduate courses in film at the University of Hamburg where she graduated with honors. Many of her screenplays developed into successful film, including A SONG OF LOVE AND DEATH - GLOOMY SUNDAY, SOLINO, PEAS AT FIVE-THIRTY, EMMAS GLÜCK, SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT, 3096 Days, THE CHEF and television films ROMEO and THE LOST BROTHER. Ruth Toma is one of the most important German writers. Her scripts have won many awards, among them the German Screenplay Award, the Writer's Award of the Cologne Conference, the German Television Award, the Bavarian Film Award and the Adolf Grimme Prize.