If you’re like me, you prefer the full-screen movie experience over sitting at home in front of a TV that is in comparison very small - no matter how flat it is. Even better is a huge screen outside on a square, or in a park by the lake, with people offering me food and drinks.
And I don’t mean popcorn chicken or pizza topped with poutine, which I was recently horrified to learn is an actual thing. The last meal I had at an outdoor movie was grilled cod with a mixed salad, crispy bread and a glass or three of nero d’avola. Bliss.
Summer brings on the open air movie season, with everyone from large corporations to neighborhood cinemas and community organizations screening films outdoors!
OrangeCinema in Zürich, Bern and Basel
(Picture copyright OrangeCinema)
OrangeCinema does it blockbuster style, showing the latest Hollywood flicks or long-time favorites on a huge screen. (The screen raises itself up slowly from pillars set in the lake, and is framed by the Alps in the background once it’s fully upright.) And tiny bats flitter around, feasting on twilight mosquitoes. No actual need for a movie in that kind of setting.
Smaller venues offer an exclusive neighborhood atmosphere – like having a big screen set up in your own backyard – with people catching up on gossip or other news as they wait for the sun to go down:
Kino Xenix in Zürich
The one with the good food is Zurich’s excellent repertory cinema, Kino Xenix. It also has a funky bar which is usually packed with interesting alternative types open for a discussion about anything.
Locarno International Film Festival
(Picture copyright Ticino Tourism)
For the ultimate in outdoor screenings, go to the Locarno International Film Festival held at the beginning of August. Every evening, organizers show an out-of-competition movie on the old town’s Piazza Grande. Imagine yourself on a huge cobblestone square surrounded by renaissance architecture under a warm starry sky watching “An American In Paris”: There’s no experience like it.
As a form of intermission, ponder this: With Zurich’s summer weather often unpredictable, or actually predictable in the sense that there’s sure to be a thunderstorm exactly on the evening you want to do anything outdoors, I’ve always wondered why the open air movie season isn’t in spring – what with the sun also going down earlier…
Fantoche Festival in Baden
(Picture copyright Ore Peleg)
With fall comes a series of great film festivals starting with Fantoche in Baden. This weeklong event is all about animated short films. My advice is to buy a ticket to the closing event, which includes a 1.5 hr screening of all the winners.
Zürich Film Festival
The Zurich Film Festival, the up-and-comer that received a rush of involuntary (yes, involuntary) publicity in 2009 thanks to the arrest of Roman Polanski, gets its publicity like the major festivals: By focusing on the stars it increasingly attracts. The Hollywood style bustle lets the organizers show a very good selection of films by new, second or third time directors that are definitely worth seeing.
2011’s winner of the Best German Language Documentary was Darwin, a movie made by Swiss director Nick Brandestini (and I do mean made by: He was solely responsible for cinematography and sound, and carried out all the interviews). It is about a tiny town on the edge of nowhere in Death Valley, populated by a collection of some 35 social outcasts, former hippies and a few too many people with access to guns and alcohol at the same time...
International Short Film Festival in Winterthur
(Picture copyright Christina Zehnder)
Also held just outside Zurich is the International Short Film Festival in Winterthur, an event which attracts filmmakers from all around the world. It is one of the few festivals where you can actually mingle with them... In 2010, the darling of the festival was David O’Reilley, whose brilliant computer-generated short “The External World” deservedly won for Best Film.
By the end of November, I’m ready to start lobbying for human hibernation again. The cold, the high ceiling of fog over Zurich and having to wait until next summer for the next orgy of movies – what better excuses to stay in bed for at least four months?