In 2004, Karl Spoerri and Tim Geser invited the renowned English digital film festival "onedotzero" to Zürich, where it was the guest of Zürich University of the Arts from October 29 – 31, 2004. This small-scale event developed into the Zürich Film Festival and brought together its core team.
In the spring of 2005, Karl Spoerri, Nadja Schildknecht and Antoine Monot, Jr. founded Spoundation Motion Picture GmbH, which has since been responsible for implementing the Zürich Film Festival and is currently managed by Karl Spoerri and Nadja Schildknecht. Karl Spoerri is the ZFF’s Artistic Director.
Theatres 1 – 6 at the cinema Plaza in Zürich’s district 4 provided the venues for the 1st Zürich Film Festival (October 5 – 9, 2005). The festival focussed on “Debuts” and screened approx. 8 premieres in one competition category. Further film line-ups included “Debut Classics” and “Züri Bellevue”. The first festival was well received by the public and attracted 8’000 visitors – the press and film industry reacted with initial scepticism towards the young event.
The 2nd Zürich Film Festival (October 2 – 6, 2006) took place in 2006 at the cinemas corso, Academy and Frosch – the Golden Eye was awarded for the first time in three competition categories (Young Feature Film, Young Documentary Film and Debut Feature Film). Additions to the programme included the ‘New World View’ line-up. The 2nd Zürich Film Festival attracted 18’000 visitors and 600 accredited film industry representatives.
The young festival took a huge leap forward in 2007 by extending its duration to 11 days – the festival’s current length. The films of the 3rd Zürich Film Festival (September 27 to October 7) were screened in the cinemas corso, Capitol, Frosch, Movie and Le Paris located along Zürich’s ‘Film Mile’. More than 50 world, European or Swiss premieres were presented at cinemas distributed along the quayside of Zürich’s river Limmat. The number of visitors rose within three years to 27’000. The Zürich Film Festival boasted a new Festival Centre located in the very heart of the city: A large marquee at Rathausplatz became the meeting point for cinema lovers and film workers. 2007 saw the festival programme expand to include the Zürich Coproduction Forum.
Zürich Film Festival continued to develop in the years between 2008 and 2012, with visitor numbers more than doubling. The cinemas ‘corso’ and ‘Le Paris’ have been the festival’s main screening venues for several years now; the cinema Arena Filmcity joined this list in 2011.
In 2009, Zürich Film Festival suffered a particularly unfortunate blow, which not only cast a shadow over the festival, but also made it known around the globe. Honorary guest Roman Polanski was arrested on arrival in Switzerland and held under house arrest for nine months. He returned to the Zürich Film Festival in 2011 to pick up his award two years later than planned.
In 2011, the Zürich Film Festival was offered guest rights by the city of Zürich to use the Sechseläutenwiese, where a new Festival Centre was erected. The Zürich Opera House became the new venue for the glamorous Award Night. The 2011 Zürich Film Festival attracted 51’000 visitors.
With the onedotzero section, Zürich Film Festival began bringing the most important and innovative festival in the field of digital film to Zürich in 2005. Even as a small independent film festival, the London-based creators were showing works by Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham, long before their names were made known to a wider audience. onedotzero_ch was the Swiss edition of the British festival, which took place within the framework of the Zürich Film Festival until 2011.
The ZFF added two films for children aged 6 and older, and two films for primary school children to its programme for the first time in 2012. Visitor figures reached a record 58’000.
With a total of 71'000 visitors, of these 4000 children and students, the festival has seen a more than 20% increase in viewer numbers in 2013. With 345 screenings of 122 film titles and some 450 national and international guests, Zürich Film Festival has once again experienced considerable growth.
The Zürich Film Festival continues on the road to success. With some 79’000 visitors in 2014, the festival’s anniversary edition saw a renewed increase in ticket sales by 11%. The 10th ZFF offered 145 films and 374 screenings. The very first‚ ZFF 72 Talent Contest’ was a huge success. A total of 235 individuals or crews of young filmmakers from eleven countries made a short film and submitted it to the contest.
The figures of the Zürich Film Festival’s 12th edition show once again that it was a resounding success across the board. The number of viewers rose by around 6.5% to approximately 90’500 (previous year: 85'000). 172 films (previous year: 161), including 43 debut works (previous year: 36), and 17 world premiere screenings (previous year: 14), as well as 607 invited guests from around the globe (previous year: 503), proves that the Zürich Film Festival remains on the road to success.
The competition presents only first, second or third directing works in three categories (each with 10-14 films):International Feature Film Competition
International Documentary Film Competition
Focus Switzerland, Germany, Austria
A Golden Eye, the festival's main prize, is awarded in each category by a separate international jury. The Golden Eye is endowed with a 25 000 CHF cash prize (International Feature / Documentary Film) resp. a 20'000 CHF cash prize (Focus).
The public chooses its favourite film from all of the competition entries by giving votes to every film. The best voted film receives the festival's Audience Award.
The Swiss Association of Film Journalists presents their Critics’ Choice Award to the best narrative feature film in competition.
The Golden Eye is awarded in each category by a separate international jury, who views the film during the festival in Zürich together with the public. The juries are not bound by any particular guidelines, they must, however, award the Golden Eye to just one film per category.
The Zürich Film Festival presents its Golden Eye awards to the winning directors in each category on the last Saturday of the event during a festive Award Night ceremony at the Zürich Opera House. Additional awards are conferred by the Swiss Association of Film Journalists (SVFJ) and the public (Audience Award).
Each evening, the ‘Gala Premier’ section celebrates highly anticipated film premieres by established filmmakers in the presence of cast and crew. Both feature films and large-scale documentaries are presented in this section. The films are screened as world, European, German-language or Swiss premieres.
The ‘New World View’ section presents a body of emerging, contemporary films from a particularly interesting film region. Only first, second or third directing works by filmmakers from each guest country are presented in this section. A short-film block, implemented in association with the International Short Film Festival Winterthur, also forms part of this section.
The Zürich Film Festival’s ‘Border Lines’ section, in collaboration with the emergency aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), presents feature-length and short films dealing with border situations occurring in current world events and humanitarian projects, territorial and social conflicts and conflicts between individuals and the state.
At the 10th Zürich Film Festival the new section "ZFF TVision" will be added to the festival's programme. The out-of-competition "ZFF TVision" section will present on the big screen productions that signal new trends and have garnered attention from the global TV world.
The ‘A Tribute To…’ Award honours a personality from the film world who has been instrumental in influencing film history. The laureate collects the award personally in Zürich and usually imparts their knowledge and experience at a ZFF Masters.
The Golden Icon Award was presented for the first time in 2008. It is an award bestowed upon an actor or actress in recognition of their life’s work. This award goes to a person who has become an icon for a whole generation and whose performance and work in film is unforgettable. Previous award winners are:
The Career or Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon a person who has achieved excellence in the field of producing, directing or interdisciplinarity. The laureate receives a Golden Eye and is honoured with a retrospective.
This conference is held annually within the framework of the Zürich Film Festival at The Dolder Grand hotel. The 7th Zürich Summit will take place on September 24–25, 2016. Unique to the German-speaking world, this forum offers an exclusive platform where top-class representatives from the entertainment and film industries meet investors and representatives from the world of finance. Topics include production and investment strategies, film financing and risk minimising, distribution and European co-productions.
Speakers have included: Claudia Blümhuber (CEO, Silver Reel Partners AG), Marc Butan (Principal, MadRiver Pictures), David Glasser (COO, The Weinstein Company), Nicolas Chartier (CEO, Voltage Pictures), Georges A. Kern (CEO, IWC Schaffhausen), Ben Kramer (Film Finance Agent, CAA), Pierre-Ange Le Pogam (Principal, Stone Angels), Nick Meyer (CEO, Sierra/Affinity), Brian Oliver (President, Cross Creek Pictures), Helge Sasse (CEO, Senator Entertainment), Michael Shamberg (Principal, Masproduction), Greg Shapiro (Principal, Kingsgate Films), Roeg Sutherland (Co-Head of Film Finance and Sales, CAA), Christopher Woodrow (CEO, Vendian Entertainment).
The ZFF Masters are chaired discussions with celebrated personalities from the international film industry. They offer the public insight into the creative process and attitude to film of directors, screenwriters, producers and actors. These renowned experts are available for public question-and-answer sessions.
Speakers have included: Tim Bevan, Frank Darabont, Asghar Farhadi, Charles H. Ferguson, Harrison Ford, Miloš Forman, Marc Forster, Paul Haggis, Michael Haneke, Markus Imhoof, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Tykwer, Harvey Weinstein, Jerry Weintraub.
The ZFF Master Class facilitates networking between young, talented filmmakers and leading experts from the film industry and imparts creative filmmaking know-how. Participants are given the opportunity to interact with established industry role models who are themselves exceptional filmmakers. The ZFF Master Class serves as a source of motivation and inspiration for young filmmakers.
Speakers have included: John Battsek, Moritz Bleibtreu, Dario Suter & Joel Brandeis, Daniel Espinosa, Jennifer Fox, Stephen Frears, Costa-Gavras, Terry Gilliam, Christopher Hampton, Jessica Hausner, Markus Imboden & Jasmine Hoch, Janine Jackowski, Michael Keaton, Ken Loach, Guneet Monga, Pietro Scalia, Hervé Schneid, Michael Shamberg, Greg Shapiro, Stacey Sher, Oliver Stone, Jeremy Thomas, Christine Vachon, Benh Zeitlin.
The International Film Music Competition was first introduced in 2012 and its venue alternates between the Tonhalle Zürich and one of the festival cinemas. The competition is a collaboration between the Zürich Film Festival and the Forum Filmmusik. French‐born pianist and composer Laurant Courbier is the winner of the second International Film Music Competition, which took place during the 9th Zürich Film Festival on September 27, 2013 at Arena Cinemas. Courbier received the Golden Eye endowed with a 10'000 Swiss franc cash prize for the ‚Best International Film Music 2013’.
In 2013, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) and Telepool Zürich launched - together with Zürich Film Festival - a new Treatment Competition. Authors are invited to submit a feature-length cinema or TV film treatment. The work must include a strong content-based, character-based or production-based connection to Switzerland. The Treatment Competition award is endowed with a CHF 5000 cash prize. The winner also receives a screenplay development agreement worth up to CHF 25’000 for the creation of a feature-length cinema or TV film screenplay.
On the 9th Zürich Film Festival the, ZFF for kids Audience Award' has been introduced and the screenings in this section have been expanded to total 14. Together with the Canton of Zürich’s Department of Education, the ZFF selects outstanding films for children and families. The films are shown in the original language and simultaneously translated into German.
ZFF 72 is an online film competition organised by the Zürich Film Festival. The competition is open to all film enthusiasts. ZFF 72 gives filmmakers 72 hours to produce a film clip based on a given theme lasting no longer than 72 seconds. Entrants are free to choose the genre of their film: from fiction and documentary to CGI and stop motion - everything is allowed. Up for grabs is a Jury Award chosen by a panel of experts and a Viewers Award chosen by the online voting community. www.zff72.com