The presence of Hollywood stars is lending the Zurich Film Festival plenty of glamour even though it is only the fourth time the event has taken place.This content was published on September 25, 2008 - 21:54
Action star Sylvester Stallone and directors Oliver Stone and Stephen Frears will be among the celebrities present at the 11-day event, which opens on Thursday.
Stallone, best known for his Rocky and Rambo films, will be presented with the new Golden Icon Award for his life's work.
A retrospective of his films will be shown on Friday.
Greek director and two-time Oscar winner Constantin Costa-Gavras will also be in Zurich to pick up his prize, the Golden Eye, for his lifetime achievement.
Costa-Gavras, one of the most respected directors of political thrillers, will talk about his films Z, Missing and Betrayed as part of the Zurich Master Class sessions.
Another well-known actor and director, Peter Fonda, will preside over the jury.
Zurich's ability to attract an all-star line-up is in stark contrast to the drawing power of Switzerland's most reputed event of its kind, the Film Festival Locarno.
The American actress, Anjelica Houston, cancelled her much anticipated appearance in Locarno this year at the last moment.
The head of the film section in the Federal Culture Office, Nicolas Bideau, has lamented that the festivals of Locarno as well as the smaller showcases in Solothurn and Nyon lack glamour.
Within the Swiss film industry, the Zurich event was initially criticised for lacking content. "There was a certain prejudice because we were not part of the Swiss culture scene," Karl Spoerri, co-head and the festival's artistic director told swissinfo.
The critics have since been silenced. "Content-wise, it's a very strong programme," Spoerri said, adding that Zurich as a location has a lot going for it
"The infrastructure is excellent as is the nightlife. Filmmakers have also succeeded in finding financial backers for their projects here," Spoerri said.
The Zurich Film Festival has grown quickly in its short lifespan: The festival organisers this year have a budget of SFr3.5 million ($3.23 million) – around 20 per cent more than in 2007. And visitor numbers have been increasing by nearly 10,000 a year.
Even though its 27,000 entrances last year pales compared with Locarno (190,000), Zurich is being taken very seriously by its rivals.
And the heightened competition for funding from the federal government has led to some resentment.
The Zurich event has been allotted SFr50,000 annually since last year.
Zurich has also won over a few deep-pocketed sponsors including Credit Suisse, L'Oréal and Audi, and has the support of the city and cantonal authorities.
In total, public funding accounts for around eight per cent of the festival's total budget. Ex-model and co-director Nadja Schildknecht said she hopes this percentage will increase.
"The festival is just getting started. Internationally, we are still very small. But we want to change that," Spoerri said.
There will be two world premieres in the international competition in Zurich: the film debut of director William Olsson's Boy of Pigs and the Swiss drama Tausand Ozeane (Thousand Oceans) from Luki Frieden.
The works of young Israeli filmmakers will be one of the focuses of the out of competition screenings.
In the Panorama D series, the spotlight will be put on up and coming German directors.
The festival starts on Thursday with the German-language film, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, a look at the terrorist group, the Red Army Faction – a dazzling, fast-paced action film.
swissinfo, based on an article in German by Corinne Buchser
Zurich Film Festival
The fourth edition of the festival takes place from September 25 to October 5.
More than 70 films will be screened. There are 16 feature films and eight documentaries entered in the competition categories.
For the first time, there will be separate juries for the feature and documentary sections.
The main film prize, the Golden Eye, will be awarded in three categories including best debut feature.
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