The Zurich Film Festival is celebrating its 18th birthday this year. Artistic Director Christian Young says that one still youthful in programming but grown up in organization. And he reveals why, in addition to Hollywood stars, he is also bringing Latin figureheads such as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Luca Guadagnino to Zurich.
Christian Jungs, 49, from Zurich, is about to start his third job as Artistic Director. © Gabriel Hill for Zurich Film Festival
Christian Jungs, the Zurich Film Festival is celebrating its 18th edition this year. The festival has come of age, so to speak. Is that noticeable for you in the processes, the film selection and the international acceptance?
Christian Jungs: One notices particularly from the international reputation that the ZFF is now perceived as a serious player – especially for films that want to position themselves for the Oscars. Six of the last 10 winners of the Oscars for the best film were screened here in Zurich. The British newspaper “The Guardian” recently celebrated us as “the trendy teenager” in its list of the ten coolest film festivals, and leading media such as Deadline or Variety are reporting more and more extensively about the ZFF. At 18 we are now at a great age: We are still teenagers who are allowed to be cheeky, for example with the politically incorrect comedy “The Cake Dynasty” about a boss of a Danish company who converts to Islam. On the other hand, we have now matured in terms of organization, that is to say, we have become even more professional.
On your 18th birthday, life opens up countless possibilities. What’s it like at a film festival? Can the ZFF allow itself more from now on?
As a festival, which is almost 90 percent privately financed, we are free to program for the public – and not for state sponsors. At a time when other festivals are getting bigger and bigger, we’re going in the other direction. We have reduced the number of films from 173 in 2019 to 146 this year. Especially in times of oversupply, when all possible films are just a mouse click away from us, the curator who selects and evaluates is more important than ever.
It is your third film festival. How much have you already been able to put your stamp on the ZFF, or what signature will the 2022 edition bear?
I opened the festival to Latin Switzerland. We are seeing strong visitor growth in French-speaking Switzerland. When I joined ZFF in 2019, we only sold 0.8 of all tickets in French-speaking Switzerland. Then we started doing media conferences in western Switzerland. In my first year as director, we already sold 1.4 percent of the tickets in French-speaking Switzerland and last year we already sold 4. And we also award more Latin stars, this year for example the French Charlotte Gainsbourg or the Italian director Luca Guadagnino. He was at the ZFF five years ago with “Call Me By Your Name” and is now returning to Zurich with his latest masterpiece “Bones and All”.
How is the Swiss film doing?
It has been on the upswing unabated for five years and is characterized by great diversity. This is also reflected in our program: We show the feminist trash film “Mad Heidi”, which pulverizes national myths, as well as the dignified best-ager comedy “The Golden Years”, in which Esther Gemsch and Stefan Kurt as Frisch -Retired open to the third third of life. A film that made us laugh heartily. It will probably be the most successful Swiss film of the year in cinemas. In the last four years, the ZFF has organized the world premiere of the most successful domestic film of the year.
Film tips from Artistic Director Christian Jungs:
THE SON by Florian Zeller
«For me, this family drama by Oscar winner Florian Zeller is the most emotional film in the programme. After the cinema you want to call your loved ones and ask them how they are.”
DREAMIN’ WILD by Bill Pohlad
«This music film tells the true story of two country bumpkins who recorded an album that, decades later, suddenly became a hit. It was produced by ZFF co-founder Karl Spoerri.»
HIDE AND SEEK von Victoria Fiore
«For years, the director has accompanied a street urchin from the toughest neighborhood in Naples, who keeps slipping into crime. The fate of the little charm bolt goes to the heart. »
What tendencies do you discover in your film selection in world cinema? Has the pandemic also been reflected in the stories?
We have seen many chamber plays with just one or two characters, which were easier to realize in the pandemic than films with mass scenes. “The Son” by Florian Zeller, for example, tells an emotionally touching family story that largely takes place in an apartment. In general, it can be seen that cinema has become more diverse, including that from Hollywood. “Bros” is the first studio mainstream gay rom-com and “The Woman King” is the first war epic starring all black women.
Streaming services keep stealing the show from the cinema. What is your stance on this, especially in light of the pandemic and lockdowns?
Streamers are not the enemies of cinema, they are friends. Netflix is the new heaven for auteur filmmakers. Studies show that people who stream a lot also go to the cinema more often than average because film is generally very important to them. We work with all streamers, our opening film «The Swimmers» is one of three Netflix films and from Amazon we show the love story «Sachertorte» starring Max Hubacher.
Where do you think more needs to be done for the festival’s external impact? Within Switzerland, in German-speaking countries or internationally?
We are very well known in Switzerland and the USA. But we still have to radiate more to Germany and Austria. With over 120,000 visitors and 600 accredited media, we are the second largest film festival in the German-speaking world. That’s why it’s great that we have the premieres of major German prestige productions such as “Der Nachname” with Iris Berben, “Lieber Kurt” by and with Til Schweiger or “Nothing new in the West” with Daniel Brühl.
This article appeared in the supplement of the Tages-Anzeiger (September 17, 2022)