Author Nualan O’Brien

Interview with Zurich Film Festival Co-founder, Nadja Schildknecht


The Zurich Film Festival: 122 different films from 27 countries will be shown over 11 days from September 26th to October 6th, 2013.

Nadja Shildknecht and Karl Spoerri - Co-founders Zurich Film Festival

Photo: Nadja Schildknecht & Karl Spoerri, at the Zurich Film Festival Press Conference, 2013

In 2012, this annual film festival had just under 60,000 visitors.  With around 380,000 people living in the greater Zurich area, that means that approximately 1 in 6 “Zurichers” attended the festival last year.

It is not just the artistic choice and the variety of films that makes this event unique, there is a great energy at the festival and the surrounding events. The fact that the competition films often have the film director and / or leading actor speak at the “premiering” of their film makes it special.

The festival has a healthy dose of glamour with red carpet gala events where big names fly in to Zurich and pick up the coveted “golden eye” or “life time achievement” awards. This year it is Harrison Ford and the Ozzie Hugh Jackman. Last year John Travolta, the director Oliver Stone (of “JFK”, and “Born on the 4th of July” fame), Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon were here for the festival.

The festival site is fully in English and the film programme can be found here. Most of the films are shown in Sechseläutenplatz or Sihlcity.  The 122 festival films are generally shown in the original language with English and / or French sub-titles.



Question: What inspired you and your business partner, Karl Spoerri to set up the Zurich Film Festival? 

Our question was more like: “Why was there not a Zurich film festival?” Zurich is the city with the highest density of cinemas relative to population in Europe. We started in 2003 with nothing, just an idea and in our first year we had 8,000 visitors, now we have almost 60,000.

I think some people tried to set up a film festival in Zurich before us, but it seems there were some political reasons why it did not take off. They went straight to the government to ask permission. We just did it.

The government was not so happy with us at the beginning, but now I think they see it adds a lot to the city.

Question: What do you love most about the Zurich film festival -what was your proudest moment to date?

For me – it is the audience. While it is always nice to meet the big stars, I can never truly relax- I am always wondering “are they okay?”  And hoping that everything is all right for them. Watching the audience on the other hand, enjoy the festival, seeing them meet the film makers – and watching them have fun and get inspired – that for me is always the highlight.

Question: Any new additions this year?

This year films for kids is new. We have created a special “golden eye” award, which is literally half the size of the other “golden eye awards”. It is very cute. The kids get to choose the winner. The films are shown in the original language and there will be someone in the movie theatre simultaneously translating the film.

Like other years, we are holding a seminar on film finance – of course very relevant in a banking city like Zurich, a film music competition and also a screenwriter’s prize.

What she loves ...

Question: What do you most love about Zurich?

I love that Zurich is big enough to be considered a “world city”, and yet small enough so that everything is quite close.

Zurich is also in the centre of Europe so easy to reach everywhere. I also love the lake (Zurichsee).  I grew up in Zurich, and have had the chance to travel a lot, so I appreciate Zurich now even more than I used to as a child.

What she would like to change...

Question: If you could change one thing about Zurich, what would that be?

It would be great if everyone could be a bit more open-minded; and welcoming to new ideas. It can take a while until “new things” or “new ideas” get accepted. I am not speaking about everyone of course.

Question: If you were not setting up a film festival, what would be your other dream profession?

Now I am in the right place for me. I am an entrepreneur and while it is hard, it is something I enjoy greatly. I enjoy the challenges too.  I do not have a secret yearning to do something else.  Of course, if the fulfillment I currently enjoy from the festival were to change, I would change.

Saying that, I also like interior design. Friends tell me I have a good eye for it, but for now, I am happy with the Zurich Film Festival.

More information on cinema tickets here:
Cinema programme by category:

The categories are:
– International Feature Film / Competition
– International Documentary Film / Competition
– German Language Feature Film / Competition
– Documentary Film Germany, Austria, Switzerland / Competition
– Special Screenings
– New World View: Brazil
– Border Lines
– ZFF for Kids

Photo Credit. Zurich Film Festival.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.