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Zurich Film Fest: Swiss mix of int’l pix

Filmmakers from all over the globe help nuture fest

Zurich Film Festival fest topper Karl Spoerri says the event, now cruising into its sixth year, began small but has grown steadily over the years, both in terms of lineup and audience.

“You can say that the Zurich Film Festival has gradually established itself in the international film sector,” Spoerri comments. “We’re especially proud of the fact that we managed that without any major public support.”

Opening the fest is a Swiss film that almost didn’t see the light of day: Michael Steiner’s “Sennentuntschi,” based on the Pygmalion-like Alpine fable about a female mannequin created by lonely herdsmen. She comes to life and seeks revenge for the misdeeds committed against her.

Steiner had finished filming the pic in 2008, but he was unable to complete production after additional financing fell through, leading to the near financial collapse of his Zurich-based shingle Kontraproduktion.

The project was ultimately saved by Bernhard Burgener, chief exec of German conglom Constantin Medien and subsidiary Constantin Film, which established a new Swiss division earlier this year.

As part of the rescue package, Constantin took over Kontraproduktion and signed Steiner to a long-term contract to oversee at least four films for the company.

Spoerri predicts “Sennentuntschi,” which Disney Switzerland is releasing domestically, will be one of this year’s most-talked-about titles.

The fest’s international competition has become a showcase for works from young filmmakers competing for the Golden Eye award.

This year’s 13 contenders include David Pinillos’ romantic comedy “Bon Appetit,” Karl Golden’s British drama “Pelican Blood” (about an obsessive and troubled young birdwatcher), Michael Noer and Tobias Lindholm’s “R” (a gritty Danish drama about a young man trying to survive imprisonment) and “Lily Sometimes,” Fabienne Berthaud’s drama starring Diane Kruger and Ludivine Sagnier as very different sisters dealing with their mother’s death.

Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” closes the fest on Oct. 3. Stone and producer Edward Pressman will attend the German-language premiere.

Since its launch in 2005, the Zurich Film Festival has sought to offer a platform for a new generation of young German filmmakers.

Fest programmer Lars Wiebe says this year, German competition showcases the works of “a bold generation that champions risk” such as Cihan Inan’s Swiss title “180°,” about a shooting rampage and its impact, and Florian Cossen’s “The Day I Wasn’t Born,” which follows a German woman who discovers she was adopted in Argentina during the military dictatorship.

Elisabeth Scharang’s Austrian drama “In Another Lifetime” centers on a group of Jewish prisoners who find themselves in an Austrian village towards the end of WWII and end up performing the beloved operetta “Wiener Blut” for the locals despite facing a wave of anti-Semitism, while Michael Schaerer’s “Stationspiraten” revolves around a group of young cancer patients learning to deal with their illness in Switzerland.

Also unspooling is more light-hearted fare like Tomasz Thomson’s hitman laffer “Snowman’s Land,” Ralf Westhoff’s relationship comedy “Der letzte schoene Herbsttag,” Barbara Kulcsar’s “The Two of Us” (about a Swiss couple whose romantic getaway results in a marriage crisis) and Sebastian Stern’s comedy “The Bumblebee,” about a middle-aged cosmetics salesman desperate to change his life.

— Ed Meza

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