Career Achievement Award for Film Composer Mychael Danna

23. July 2021

The Zurich Film Festival honours the Canadian film score composer Mychael Danna with the Career Achievement Award for his life’s work. The award will be presented to Danna on September 30 during the 9th International Film Music Competition at the Tonhalle Zurich, where he presides over this year’s competition jury. Among Danna’s list of best-known works is the score for the literary adaptation of LIFE OF PI, which brought him an Oscar in 2013.

Each year, the Zurich Film Festival presents honorary awards to celebrated film workers who have shaped and enriched the film landscape. This autumn, the 17th ZFF (23.09. – 03.10.) presents its Career Achievement Award to Mychael Danna for his life’s work. “The exploration of film music plays a pivotal role at the ZFF,” explains Artistic Director Christian Jungen, “and it is for this reason that we are delighted to honour Mychael Danna, one of Hollywood’s great composers. Both his remarkable versatility and the outstanding quality of his work sustained over decades are what make him unique. Without his compositions, such cornerstones of movie history as THE ICE STORM, MONSOON WEDDING, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and LIFE OF PI would not have been nearly as emotional.”

“I’m extremely proud to be the recipient of this year’s prestigious Career Achievement Award in Zurich, and will do my best to honour this award in my work in the years to come”, explains Mychael Danna. “I’m also excited to serve as head of the jury for the International Film Music Competition at the Tonhalle Zurich, wonderfully unique among film music competitions by performing the finalist scores in front of a live audience with a symphony orchestra. I look forward to coming to legendary Zurich, the competition concert and meeting these up and coming talents!” 

Born in Canada in 1958, Mychael Danna studied music composition at the University of Toronto, where he first discovered world music, a genre that would go on to influence his later work. After composing for, among others, school theatre groups, Danna gave his film music debut in 1987. He has since scored more than 100 movies and series and scooped countless awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and an Emmy for the soundtrack to Ang Lee’s directorial masterpiece LIFE OF PI (2012). Prior to this, he attracted international attention for his work on such films as LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006), THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (2009) and MONEYBALL (2011). Danna has worked with such renowned directors as Terry Gilliam, Atom Egoyan, Joel Schumacher and Denzel Washington, and further enjoys a long-standing collaborative relationship with his brother Jeff Danna, who is also a composer: the two most recently worked together to score the animation film ONWARD (2020) from the house of Disney Pixar.

Mychael Danna’s musical oeuvre is characterised by a transcultural, often experimental approach, which fuses world and folk music from various regions and eras with traditional orchestration. The Canadian’s unique position among film score composers is down to this complex, multi-ethnic blending of styles that allows his compositions to become narrative film dimensions in their own right, rather than just mere illustrations.

The Career Achievement Award will be presented to Danna during the 9th International Film Music Competition, where the Canadian presides over this year’s competition jury. Music from one of his works will also be performed during the award ceremony on September 30, 2021. Films scored by Mychael Danna that have appeared at previous editions of the Zurich Film Festival include THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS (2009), which screened out of competition, and the Gala Premieres MONEYBALL (2011), DEVIL'S KNOT (2013) and AFTER THE WEDDING (2019). Danna most recently composed the soundtrack for Tom McCarthy’s crime drama STILLWATER, which premiered on July 8, 2021 at Cannes and hits Swiss cinemas in September.

The Career and Lifetime Achievement Awards have been presented previously to such eminent cineastes as Alejandro González Iñárritu, Harrison Ford, Hans Zimmer, Aaron Sorkin, Donald Sutherland, Marcel Hoehn, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Rolf Lyssy.

More information on Mychael Danna can be found at

Tickets for the Gala Evening on September 30 are available from 11 am on Monday, August 23 at

Further information about the International Film Music Competition is available now at