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Zurich's Golden Eye

After eleven days of intense movie marathon, drawing an estimated 45,000 visitors,the seventh Zurich Film Festival was closed last night with the American hit “The Help”. Only a few minutes before the movie started on the stage of Corso 1 the three actresses starring the main characters in the film - Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer – appeared, accompanied by the movie director Tate Taylor. The audience applauded in great excitement the stunning looking stars who stayed on the stage to answer a few questions about the movie.

The night before the international jury of the festival, headed by the Academy Award nominee Laurence Fishburne, awarded the Golden Eye in the international feature film category to the American director Jeff Nichols and his thriller "Take Shelter". Portraying the life of an unassuming man afflicted by nightmares, the movie was among the favorites of last month’s Festival of American Film in Deauville, France as well, and the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Despite the fact that Zurich Film Festival promotes itself as a European festival with a special emphasis on filmmakers from the continent the organizers gave another Golden Eye to an American producer Cindy Meehl. His story of a real-life "horse whisperer" won the international documentary category with the movie "Buck".

In the new German-language documentary competition a Swiss name was granted with the Golden eye beating out seven other movies. Nick Brandestini and his story about a Californian town called “Darwin” became the favorite of the jury. The movie-maker is also known to the audience as the producer and editor of the television channel VIVA (now part of the MTV network). This is his third documentary after “Return to Florence” (2006) and “H.R. Ginger Sanctuary” (2007).

Beside Nick Brandestini Swiss Film production was highlighted this year with a record of seven domestic movies, most of which competed in the German Language category. The award went to the Austrian Karl Markovics and his film "Atmen" telling the story of a 19-year-old released after four years in youth detention.
For the first time in its seven year history, the ZFF gave its special honor award for a body of work to the Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. The director is acclaimed for movies such as this year's Oscar-nominated "Biutiful" with actor Javier Bardem, "Babel" and "Amores Perros".

The Swiss production “Unter Wasser atmen” became the favorite of the audience this year with the story of Dr. Nils Jent, who after a motorcycle accident at the age of 19 found himself paralysed and robbed of his sight and speech, to a new and radically different existence.

Only seven years old the Zurich Film Festival has already earned a place among the major film festivals. Its list of attendees is studded by stars such as Jeremy Irons, Sean Penn, Paul Haggis, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Laurence Fishbourne. This year Roman Polanski also returned to the festival to accept his life-time achievement award from two years ago, which he was unable to pick up after being arrested for a decades-old sex-crime case.

During the ZFF the American actor Sean Penn was given the award for a lifetime achievement as a producer, director and active humanitarian. In the eleven-day program some of his most significant movies were screened, such as Penn’s directorial debut “The Indian Runner”, the United States contribution to the compilation film 11'09’'01 – SEPTEMBER 11; Into the Wild and the 1995 drama “Dead man walking”, “Sweet and lowdown”, “21 Grams”, “At close range” and “Milk”.

Every year the Zurich Film festival highlights movies from countries with increasingly important film industries. The focus this year was on Turkey. In the past years, the regional focuses have included Israel, Argentina and Australia.

Another benchmark of the ZFF are the Zurich Movie talks, featuring different panels. Just before the big award night this year the jury members and the Zurich Film Festival’s artistic directors gave an insight into their function. How does the decision process work? What criteria does the jury look for in a film? What makes a good film? Gripping questions on the eve of the Golden Eye presentation!

Since the start of the Zurich Film Festival in 2005 the popularity of the festival has grown impressively. Beside the visiting popular names from the movie industry ZFF was chosen this year for 10 world premieres, among which was the much anticipated European premiere of Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt. The 96 movies were screened over 11 days in 10 theaters and the Festival Award Night was held in Zurich’s famed Opera House. The organizers have set a retro-glam lounge for the press and the NZZ Tibits lounge for evening drinks after late movie screenings. This year the festival received a support of 4.9 million Swiss francs in funds. Each Golden Eye earned its winner a cheque for 20,000 Swiss francs.

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