Zurich Film Festival Offers Respite From Fall Fatigue

Roadside Attractions
'Stronger'

Filmmakers "can combine work with vacation," says the fest's co-founder about the low-stress event that kicks off Sept. 28 (post Venice and Toronto) with appearances from honorees Glenn Close, Jake Gyllenhaal and Andrew Garfield.

The Zurich International Film Festival isn't the biggest or most important industry event on the calendar, but it just might be the nicest.

Taking its cue from the city itself — a hub for international finance and industry that still feels casual and stress-free — Zurich, which runs post-Cannes, post-Venice and post-Toronto, has set itself up as the spot to regroup and recharge after the excess of the festi­val season.

"Zurich is actually ideal for filmmakers because you can combine work with vacation," says festival co-founder Nadja Schildknecht. "You can network, you can do some business, but in a very relaxed, unhurried atmosphere."

Lionsgate chairman Patrick Wachsberger, Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker and CAA agent Roeg Sutherland are Zurich regulars and this year again will attend the Zurich Summit, a two-day industry event that runs on the first weekend of the festival.

Ruben Igielko-Herrlich, CEO and co-founder of Propaganda GEM, the world's leading branded entertainment agency, is among this year's speakers. Adding some star power to the summit is Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander, who'll participate in a discussion about the making of Euphoria, an upcoming Sweden-Germany co-production that Vikander produced and stars in.

For its film lineup, Zurich tries to balance the highlights of the festival season with "new discoveries," says Schildknecht, particularly from Switzerland and German-speaking Europe. So this year, Zurich's program includes Palme d'Or winner The Square from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, alongside such other Cannes highlights as The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos' follow-up to his crossover hit The Lobster.

From Toronto, Zurich has nabbed two tennis dramas: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell; and Janus Metz Pedersen's Borg/McEnroe, featuring Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason, which will open Zurich on Sept. 28.

"World premieres aren't as important as they were maybe five, 10 years ago," says festival co-director Karl Spoerri. "The main problem for producers and filmmakers is holding the audience's attention between the premiere and the film's release, or the awards campaign. That's where Zurich can be a great platform."

For a small festival, Zurich also delivers impressive star wattage. This year's guest list includes six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, who will receive Zurich's Golden Icon Award and present her latest film, The Wife. Jake Gyllenhaal (David Gordon Green's Stronger) and Andrew Garfield (Andy Serkis' directorial debut, Breathe) both will be honored with the Golden Eye Award and will introduce their latest films. And Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin will receive the ZFF Career Achievement Award at an Oct. 4 gala, followed by the European premiere of Sorkin's directorial debut, Molly's Game.

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MEYER'S BAR- Badenerstrasse 219

"The city's best dive bar, with a selection of drunk cuisine — sausages, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. — to satisfy midnight cravings. Typically open till the last person leaves."

THE METZ GRILL- Langstrasse 31

"This place is the ultimate countermovement to the hip vegan places sprouting up everywhere around the world. Their motto is: 'We love animals so we treat them with care.' Try the Fleischkase sandwich for about $10. The meat is simply fantastic; you can taste the love."

THE ECCO RESTAURANT- Atlantis by Giardino Hotel, Doltschiweg 234

"Simply the best restaurant in Zurich. The Ecco got two Michelin stars right out of the starting gate, and I wouldn't be surprised if it picks up another one soon. Make sure your publicist picks up the check."

OBERE FLUHGASSE- Fluhgasse 69

"True Swiss cuisine, and rough Zurich charm, nicely tucked away from touristy areas. Schnitzelte — minced veal with heavy cream and rosti (the original hash brown) — is a specialty. But English is only going to get you so far. Vegans are advised to steer clear."

KAFI DIHEI- Zurlindenstrasse 231

"The place to do brunch the day after your gala. It's got an English-influenced menu, with the likes of shepherd's pie and fresh scones every afternoon, along with a tasty selection of homemade pies and cakes for dessert."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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