Fest Traveler: Zurich Film Festival 2012

The Zurich Film Festival continues to carve out an ever bigger role in the international fest circuit with a showcase that presents an eclectic selection of international mainstream fare, arthouse cinema and German-language film.

This year’s gala lineup includes Rian Johnson’s sci-fi actioner “Looper,” Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” Lauren Greenfield’s doc “The Queen of Versailles” and Jake Schreier’s “Robot & Frank.”

In addition to its annual tributes — this year it’s feting Richard Gere, John Travolta and Jerry Weintraub — the fest is introducing a new film market and its first film music competition, in which young composers from around the world are invited to compose a piece for orchestra to accompany a six-minute short film.

While Zurich takes place on the heels of major fests like Venice and Toronto and concurrently with San Sebastian, Zurich fest topper Karl Spoerri says the proximity to other fests offers more opportunities than challenges.

“Toronto or Venice are not really a problem for us. A lot of the titles that go to Toronto come to Zurich and that’s good for us. You always face a lot of challenges because everyone wants the great titles and the great names and there’s limited capacity to do everything.”

Yet Spoerri points out that co-operation among festivals is beneficial to all. This year Zurich is sharing a number of pics with San Sebastian, including Oliver Stone’s opening film “Savages,” with Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions,” starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, and Nicholas Jarecki’s “Arbitrage,” with Gere and Susan Sarandon.

“Some of the films we have first and they then go to San Sebastian or the other way around. We also share costs. It works in our favor and it doesn’t really matter to us if a film is there and it doesn’t matter to them if a film is at our festival because it’s a different market,” says Spoerri.

The fest has also attracted some big names to its international feature competition jury, including multi-hyphenate Frank Darabont, producer Michael Shamberg (“Django Unchained”), Swedish helmer Daniel Espinosa (“Easy Money”), editor Pietro Scalia (“Prometheus”), casting agent Deborah Aquila and Swiss actor-rapper Carlos Leal.

“So far we’ve been lucky because people like to come to the festival and like to come to Zurich. It’s very accessible,” says Spoerri.

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