Zurich Film Festival Preview

This Monday is a big day for two reasons. Firstly, the new university semester has started and that means I’m back in school until around Christmas. The campus is full of wide-eyed first-year students clutching their cellphones nervously looking for the right rooms and trying to get a grip of our widespread university. Also, the beginning of the new semester is always similar to New Year’s Day as the gym was much fuller than during the holidays with many students trying to follow their resolutions for the school year. But my adventures at my university (I only had one class today) are not what I want to talk about today.

Instead I want to focus on the next event bringing glamour to the city I live in: The ninth Zurich International Film Festival running from September 26 to October 6. If you’re planning on catching a glimpse of Hollywood and other world-class filmmaking in Switzerland, you should definitely head over to the official website to find out which movies are playing and how to get tickets for them. What can you expect?

Photo source: Official Zurich Film Festival Press photos.

Photo: Official ZFF Festival Press Photos

Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on foreign and independent films, so I can only talk about the films I’ve either heard about or I’m going to try to catch during the two-week festival. But first, the logistics: The movies will be screened in various cinemas throughout the city, with the Corso at the Bellevue and the cinemas at the Sihl City taking prominent roles. Movies are split into various sections: International Feature Film, International Documentary Film, German Language Feature Film as well as Documentary Film Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Gala Premieres and Special Screenings. Finishing off the line-up are Brazilian movies, movies for kids and screenings of past classics.

Among the ten competitors for the International Feature Film category, the only film I’m familiar with is the drama “Fruitvale Station” whose main actor Michael B. Jordan received brilliant reviews in the American Press. The movies follows a fateful day in the life of 22-year old Oscar, whose resolutions to make himself a better man coincide with a homicide in Oakland’s Fruitvale Station. But reading through the descriptions, there are other films that seem interesting to me. “Parkland” follows the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy exactly 50 years ago and features an impressive cast including Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton and former Disney superstar Zac Efron. “Puppy Love” is a French movie about a shy teenage girl who finds an unlikely friend and might make my already extensive list of great coming-of-age movies even longer. “Traumland” on the other hand is a multicultural drama set in Zurich itself surrounding the 18-year old Mia, a Bulgarian prostitute trying to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. This year’s competition will be very intriguing and with some of the stars and directors making an appearance at the festival, you should have a look now.

The Gala Premieres feature all almost all of the movies I’ve been desperately waiting for. If you’ve followed my Twitter feed (which you should!), you would have seen how I’ve been longing for these movies to come to Switzerland all summer long. The most prominent movie is probably “Don Jon”, the first movie written and directed by Hollywood A-Lister Joseph Gordon-Levitt and starring him with Scarlett Johansson as the female lead. The comedy about a young man finding the one while battling this porn addiction is intriguing to say the least. “The Way, Way back” has some high profile actors such as Steve Carell billed, but it is a sweet coming-of-age story similar to the vein of “Adventureland” starring Jesse Eisenberg and pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart. Instead of the theme park, the location is the local swimming pool.

The Spectacular Now movie poster Photo: IMDB

The Spectacular Now movie poster
Photo: IMDB

But the movie I’m most excited about is “The Spectacular Now”. The movie is (what else?) a coming-of-age story about high school golden boy Sutter trying to get his life on track after being dumped by his girlfriend and with graduation looming. It is written by the immensely talented Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, the creative minds behind the wonderful romantic comedy”500 days of summer” (starring the aforementioned Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Both of them are also responsible for the screenplay of one of my favorite books “The Fault in Our Stars“, so naturally I’m eager to follow all of their work. Reviews for “The Spectacular Now” have been, well, spectacular with the movie having a 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But maybe I’m the only one really excited about those movies. For everyone else, there are some higher profile movies showing for the first time in Switzerland. “Diana” attempts to portray the life of the iconic British princess (and according to reviews fails). “Gravity”, the new Alfonso Cuaron picture, impressed with some breathtaking trailers from outer space and features George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Other movies featuring prominent Academy Award Winners include “The Immigrant” (Marion Cotillard), “Liberace” (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon) and “The Railway Man” (Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman).

Hugh Jackman Photo: Official ZFF Press Photos

Hugh Jackman
Photo: Official ZFF Press Photos

A special mention also goes out to “Prisoners” starring Hugh Jackman. The actor best known for his portrayal of Wolverine is the biggest name at the festival and will be in Zurich on September 28 to receive the Golden Icon Award for this year. He is sure to draw a big crowd, but if you’re lucky and show up early enough, you might catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood’s most charismatic stars. The Career Achievement Award goes to producers from the British Working Title Films, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, responsible for films such as Notting Hill, The Big Lebowski, Les Miserables or Rush (premiering at the ZFF).

I hope I was able to give you a short preview of the festival. If you want to know more about the films in general, head over to their website and check it out for a more comprehensive overview! Let me know if you have any other recommendations for me!

As always, please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,

Mountains… and more: Zurich Polyterrasse

Welcome to the first installment of Mountains and more!

My goal with this series is to share some knowledge about the country I’ve spent more than half of my life in: Switzerland. Every Monday, I’ll discuss either a beautiful place to visit or an interesting bit of Swiss history. If you’d like to know more about a specific topic, just let me know!

For today, I’ve decided to write a little portrait of one of my favorite spots in Zurich, the city I studied and worked in for the last four-and-a-half years. Zurich is the largest city of Switzerland and located in the northeastern part of the country. Most tourists know the long shopping mile Bahnhofstrasse which spans all the way from the central train station to the border of Lake Zurich. Along the way are shops by most major fashion brands, Zurich’s premier department store Jelmoli and of course the Paradeplatz, the seat of Switzerland’s two biggest banks. Other famous landmarks include the newly built Prime Tower (the highest skyscraper in Switzerland) and the Uetliberg (the hill overlooking the city, lake and alps). I don’t believe  this will be the last time I write about Zurich, so I’ve picked out a special spot to use as an introduction to the city: the Polyterrasse.

The Polyterrasse is a terrace located by the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and a great way to start a tour of Zurich. Right next to the ETH lies the University of Zurich (where I currently visit Grad School). The ETH and the University of Zurich are two of the biggest tertiary institutions of the country and always worth a visit. Notable former students include Albert Einstein, Pierre de Meuron, Erwin Schrödinger or Wolfgang Pauli. If you visit the schools during the academic year (semesters span from March to June and September to Christmas), you should be able to sit in a lecture about computer science, economics, law or mathematics without registering beforehand. A lot of basic courses are taught to 100 or more students, so even unknown faces can listen to esteemed professors easily. However, in undergraduate courses most classes still are in German. On a graduate level almost all courses are taught in English. Even if you don’t happen to be interested in the lectures, just having a stroll around the quarter with many of its villas housing university institutes or offices can be relaxing. After this short introduction to the university, let’s have a closer look at the Polyterrasse.

From an architectural point of view, I do not believe the Polyterrasse to hold any special value. The university buildings close-by are more interesting if you’re looking for architecture. It is a large square terrace with steps leading to the ETH and also serves as a roof for a building. Beneath the terrace lies the bqm, a bar/bistro with moderate prices frequented by students and tutors alike. Next to the bistro is the official cafeteria of the ETH, a book and stationary shop as well as one of the fitness studios for university students. There are a few modern pieces of lighting and a handful of benches to rest on.

One of the main reasons to check out the Polyterrasse is the fantastic view of downtown Zurich. If you’re particularly lucky, you’re also treated to a panorama of the alps. For me, there’s no better spot in town to get a quick overview of the downtown area. The view includes the main station, many of the cities churches and the buildings of the Old Town. Additionally, you can see the beautiful lake and the river Limmat.

I particularly recommend visiting the Polyterrasse during the spring or summer during nice weather as clouds, rain or snow take away a lot of its charm. And its charm is what makes the terrace stand out as one of the special places in town. In summer, the platform is filled with students enjoying the sun, studying their textbooks or discussing their newest projects. It is bristling with youthful energy and it’s a place where you might even be able to catch a glimpse of the next Mark Zuckerberg. For me, it is the perfect place to just relax with a good book or to meet up with friends for an after-work drink. On a sunny day, the atmosphere on the Polyterrasse and its wonderful view never fail to inspire and motivate me.

To reach the Polyterrasse, you can use the polybahn furnicular, an automatically operated train line connecting the old town with the ETH since 1889. The cost of taking the five-minute ride with the furnicular is 2.30 CHF. Alternatively, there are multiple sets of stairs leading up to the Polyterrasse or you can take trams 6 or 10 from the main station to the station “Haldenegg”.

For your next visit to Zurich, I can only recommend to start your city tour at the Polyterrasse, taking in the atmosphere and exploring the two schools close by. You can then continue to stroll down to the old town (Niederdörfli) or the Kunsthaus art museum. Or you could take the Polybahn furnicular down to the river and Bahnhofstrasse. Zurich has a lot to offer and discover!

To end this post, I wanted to thank all the readers of Chapter 2 who have sent me valuable feedback on my writing. I hope to include the tips in chapter 3 on Friday.

Feel free to connect with me to share your ideas via the comments, e-mail or on twitter @AlbertGubler! See you Wednesday with this week’s obsession.

Sincerely yours,