Zurich: 'Pop Aye' Wins Best Feature Film Award

Pop Aye - Still 2 - H 2017
Courtesy of Sundance

Pop Aye - Still 2 - H 2017

Kirsten Tan's comedic drama follows the travels of a disheartened architect across Thailand with the elephant he adopts along the way.

Pop Aye, a comedic drama from Singapore filmmaker Kirsten Tan, has won the top prize of best international feature film at the 13th Zurich International Film Festival.

The feature is an unconventional road trip that follows a disheartened architect who leaves the city and travels across the country, accompanied by an elephant (called Popeye) he adopts along the way.

Pop Aye premiered in the World Drama section at Sundance and was selected by Singapore to represent the country in the foreign language category of the 2018 Oscars.

Rahul Jain's Machines, an astounding look at life in a textile factory in India’s Gujarat region, and the workers who spend 12-hour shifts earning the equivalent of $3 a day there, took the prize for best documentary in Zurich, while Lisa Bruhlmann's Blue My Mind, a surreal take on the coming-of-age story, won honors for the best German-language title in this year's competition.

The Emerging Swiss Talent Award for a Swiss film went to Before Summer Ends from Maryam Goormaghtigh. The rambling road movie, about a trio of beer-guzzling Iranian immigrants meandering through the south of France, premiered in Cannes, where it opened the festival's Acid sidebar.

Mark Grieco's Sundance documentary A River Below, which looks at the fight to save the pink river dolphin, indigenous to the Amazon river, took Zurich's Audience Award. The festival's kids jury gave their top prize for best feature to Peter Lennstrand's Swedish yarn Up in the Sky, which premiered in Toronto, with the kids audience award going to animated feature Rabbit School – Guardians of the Golden Egg by Germany's Ute von Munchow-Pohl. Zurich's treatment competition award, handed out to the best pitch for a new feature film, went to Swiss filmmaker Marie Leuenberger for Secondo, a family comedy centered on the Selfie culture.

Zurich Festival co-directors Nadja Schildknecht and Karl Spoerri noted that “all three main awards in the competition section went to debut films” and that “the majority of awards went to female directors,” highlighting Zurich's focus on women filmmakers. It's also notable that Swiss cinema took pride of place at the awards ceremony, held in Zurich on Saturday.

The festival hit new heights in public acceptance as well, with attendance figures jumping 8.5 percent to around 98,300. The 13th Zurich Festival was a particularly star-studded affair, with the likes of Glenn Close, Alicia Vikander, Andrew Garfield, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rob Reiner, Aaron Sorkin and former Vice President Al Gore gracing the festival's idiomatic green carpet.

The 14th Zurich Film Festival runs Sept. 27-Oct. 7, 2018.