U.S. director Cindy Meehl’s doc “Buck” won the International Documentary Film prize over the weekend at the 7th Zurich Film Festival, while Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” won the International Feature Film prize at a ceremony held in the Swiss city’s opera house. Also taking home prizes were German-language films “Atmen” by Karl Markovics (Austria) and Swiss director Nick Brandestini’s “Darwin.”
The Zurich Film Festival took place September 22 – October 2.
Full list of Zurich Film Festival winners with descriptions and credits provided by the event:
Genre: DOC: Portrait
Production: Julie Goldman
Cast: Buck Brannaman, Robert Redford
The Horse Whisperer may be a Hollywood legend, but the cowboy who was the inspiration for both the book and the film is very real. With great effect and considerable success, Buck Brannaman spends nine months of the year travelling through America imparting his inexhaustible equine knowledge at clinics and therapy groups. “Instead of helping people with horse problems, I help horses with people problems,” says the charismatic Brannaman. It is not unusual for the problems of a horse to have their roots in its owner. Brannaman’s tender approach to animals was not something he was born with. Following the early death of their mother, he and his brother were exposed to frequent outbreaks of violence while under the care of their father. It was not until Brannaman was placed in a foster family that he was able to build up a new sense of trust and develop his way of handling both people and horses with respect.
Script: Karl Markovics
Production: Dieter Pochlatko, Nikolaus Wisiak
Cast: Thomas Schubert, Karin Lischka, Gerhard Liebmann, Georg Friedrich
19-year-old Roman Kogler has been stuck in a youth detention centre since being convicted of manslaughter four years earlier. He’s got the chance of early release, but the confined and withdrawn young man has no family to support him. The chances of being successfully integrated back into society are slim. But he is offered day release, and finds work at a funeral home. Rudolf, his new colleague, crudely shows him the ropes on his first day at performing this rather specialist activity. Roman gets over his initial shock and soon learns to deal with the dead respectfully. In doing so, he makes a discovery that sends him on the trail of his past. Confronted by death, Roman gradually finds his way back to life.
Script: Jeff Nichols
Production: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin
Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Tova Stewart
Curtis LaForche lives in a small Ohio town with his wife Samantha and their daughter Hannah, who is deaf and dumb. Curtis makes a modest living as a crew chief for a sand-mining company. Samantha is a stay-at-home mom who supplements their income working as a part-time seamstress. Money is tight, and navigating Hannah’s healthcare and special-needs education is a constant struggle. Despite that, Curtis and Samantha are very much in love. All this changes when Curtis begins having terrifying dreams about an approaching apocalyptic storm. He keeps his nightmares to himself, but begins building a storm shelter in their backyard – he wants to prepare for the worst. His behaviour worries not only his neigbours, but also his wife Samantha. Curtis begins to question the true significance of his dreams: must he protect his family from a tornado, or from himself?
Genre: DOC: Social & Human Interest
Script: Taylor Segrest
Production: Nick Brandestini, Sandra Ruch, Taylor Segrest, Vesna Brandestini
Cast: Nancy and Monty Brannigan, Connie and Hank Jones
Situated at the end of a badly-kept road in California’s Mojave Desert, the little town of Darwin has seen much better days. Located on the edge of a now-disused silver mine, this town was once the a bustling hub for multitudes of mine workers right up to the 1970s. Today it has exactly 35 inhabitants – all of them dropouts. What drives people to take up residence in a bizarre desert ghost town with no political structures, no work and no children? “Darwin is about living in the moment, the past is not important here”, says Hank, who settled in Darwin with his wife Connie after leaving behind a difficult phase in their lives. DARWIN is the portrait of an extraordinary yet archetypal American place and its people.
Script: Ragnhild Tronvoll
Production: Synnove Horsdal
Cast: Agnes Kittelsen, Joachim Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens, Henrik Rafaelsen
Happy-go-lucky teacher Kaja and her laconic husband Erik live with their son in the sparsely populated Norwegian hinterland. Kaja is a little lonely, and reacts with understandable enthusiasm when Sigve, Elisabeth and their adopted son come to live in the neighbourhood. At their quickly organised welcome meal, Kaja, unlike the reserved Erik, is fascinated by the apparently perfect couple, and can hardly contain her curiosity. But their next get-together unearths some uncomfortable truths. A rather embarrassing party game reveals that all is not well in either marriage. And so it follows that Kaja and Sigve, both hungry for love and understanding, plunge headfirst into a passionate affair, which triggers a change in Erik. While the adults try to rearrange their lives, their children entertain themselves with a hideous game. An amusing and highly entertaining story of freedom and disloyalty with a few surprising twists.
“Unter Wasser Atmen”
Genre: DOC: Portrait
Language: Swiss German
Production: Stefan Muggli, Andri Hinnen
Cast: Nils Jent, Cuno und Helene Jent, Regula Dietsche, Martin Hilb
The Jent family watch images from their super-8 film archive of a strong, bright-eyed youth, who moves with an extraordinary grace, taking a daring high dive into a pool of water. Then comes the day when the 19-year-old almost loses his life in a motorbike accident. After four weeks in a coma he wakes up, paralysed and robbed of his sight and speech, to a new and radically different existence. UNTER WASSER ATMEN is a powerful document of how satisfaction, happiness and even professional success can find a place in such a life. Step by step, and with boundless willpower and patience, Nils fights his way back into everyday life. He explores the frontiers of his handicapped body, and draws on the one thing that remains completely unscathed: his intelligence. Thanks to the unwavering support of his parents, Nils achieves goals nobody believed possible. Twenty years after his accident, Nils has lost none of his sparkle – in fact, he now shines brighter than ever.