Jonas Carpignano’s ‘A Chiara’ Takes Top Prize at Zurich Film Festival

The 17th Zurich Film Festival concluded Saturday with wins for Jonas Carpignano‘s “A Chiara” and Fred Baillif’s “La Mif,” with Renato Borrayo Serrano’s “Life of Ivanna” named best documentary.

The jury, led by Daniel Brühl, and featuring director Stéphanie Chuat, former Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick and producer Andrea Cornwell, decided to award “A Chiara” with the prize for the best film of the Feature Film Competition. The Italian-French-Swedish-Danish co-production sees a teenage girl in a Calabrian town discovering her father’s criminal involvement.

More from Variety

“We were swept away by the modern take on the Italian neorealist tradition, the exceptional use of music and sound design and the outstanding performances by Swami Rotolo and her family, all making their film debuts. This film is nothing less than a cinematic masterpiece,” argued the jury, calling the decision “unanimous.”

Clint Bentley’s “Jockey” – praised for “an incredible performance” by Clifton Collins Jr., already awarded at Sundance – and Berlinale entry “Ballad of a White Cow,” directed by Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam, were granted special mentions.

In the Focus Competition, focusing on films from Switzerland, Germany and Austria, Baillif’s “La Mif” proved a clear winner, with a special mention going to “Behind the Headlines” by Daniel Andreas Sager, while the Asif Kapadia-led Documentary Competition jury opted for “Life of Ivanna” by Borrayo Serrano, following a tundra nomad.

Earlier on during the week, Sharon Stone collected the Golden Icon Award, followed by “A Tribute To…” Award for Paolo Sorrentino and a Lifetime Achievement Award for Paul Schrader, who also presented his latest drama “The Card Counter” to the local audience.

“Stars are important,” artistic director Christian Jungen told Variety, saying that Stone and Sorrentino were always “on top of his wish list.”

“The same people who complain that we only care about stars are the first to request interviews with Sharon Stone. This festival is 93% privately funded. We are not one of these state-driven events; we need stars to attract sponsors. But I also think that stars actually help auteur cinema.”

Jungen, a former film critic who took over from co-directors Nadja Schildknecht and Karl Spoerri in 2020, admitted that while this year “travel was more of a challenge,” the festival still attracted about 100,000 visitors, 32% more than last year.

“I was 46 when they called me and it was the right time to do something new,” he said, admitting that his background continues to come in handy when moderating masterclasses with his guests.

“It’s about sharing your admiration with the people you give awards to. I started out as a cashier in a movie theater and I just love its atmosphere. We weren’t sure if people were ready to come back, but we never had this ‘identity crisis.’ For us, there were only two options: either we do a physical edition or we don’t do it at all. We are advocates of the theatrical experience,” he said, mentioning that while he added more openness towards the French-speaking world, with Zurich, “the DNA stays the same.”

“Our winners are much younger than at most festivals. We try to help new filmmakers, show the most anticipated titles and help young people connect with established players from the industry.”

The festival also continues to support the ones who have already presented their films at the festival, be it this year’s winner Carpignano or even Cary Joji Fukunaga, back with “No Time to Kill.”

“He was already in our competition with his debut ‘Sin Nombre,’ so he is certainly someone who has a connection to Zurich,” said Jungen, also saying “it was cool” to host a Bond premiere at the festival.

“It was like a boy’s dream. On the first day, 30,000 people wanted to buy a ticket at the very same moment. It was wonderful to see, because, let’s face it, we are not The Rolling Stones! What I want to do with this festival is to defend cinema. I keep saying that movie theaters are like relatives – you just have to visit them from time to time.”

Full list of awards:

Feature Film Competition: “A Chiara” by Jonas Carpignano

Special Mentions:

“Jockey” by Clint Bentley

“Ballad of a White Cow” by Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam

Focus Competition: “La Mif”

Special Mention:

“Behind the Headlines” by Daniel Andreas Sager

Documentary Competition: “Life of Ivanna” by Renato Borrayo Serrano.

Special mentions:

“I am Free” by Laure Portier

“Sabaya” by Hogir Hirori

ZFF for Kids – Jury Prize: “The Wolf and the Lion” by Gilles de Maistre

Audience Award: “Youth Topia” by Dennis Stormer

Zurich Churches Film Prize: “La Mif” by Fred Baillif

Science Film Award: “All Light, Everywhere” by Theo Anthony

Emerging Swiss Talent Award (Critics’ Award): “Azor” by Andreas Fontana

Best International Film Music: Andrey Mordovsky for “Etiqueta Negra” by David Vergés

Honorary Awards presented during the 17th ZFF:

Golden Icon: Sharon Stone

Game Changer Award: Pamela Abdy

A Tribute To… Award: Paolo Sorrentino

Career Achievement Award: Mychael Danna

Lifetime Achievement Award: Paul Schrader

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.