Career Achievement Award for Film Composer Rachel Portman

02. June 2022

The Zurich Film Festival honours the English film score composer Rachel Portman with its Career Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Portman on September 29 during the 10th International Film Music Competition at the Tonhalle Zurich, where she presides over this year's competition jury. Rachel Portman has written sores for more than 100 films, TV productions and theatre projects. She was the first female ever to win an Academy Award for an original movie score, which she received for her scoring of EMMA.

«I feel most humbled to be chosen for such a prestigious award» states Rachel Portman. © B. Ealovega

Each year, the Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) presents honorary awards to celebrated film workers who have shaped and enriched the film landscape. This Autumn, the 18th ZFF (Sept 22-Oct 02) pays tribute with its Career Achievement Award to the multifaceted work of Rachel Portman. «The exploration of film music plays a pivotal role at the ZFF», explains Artistic Director Christian Jungen. «It is for this reason that we are delighted to honour Rachel Portman, a truly extraordinary and inspiring composer.»

The British Film Composer Rachel Portman is the first female composer to win an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Score for EMMA by Douglas McGrath starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor. She was also the first female composer to win a Primetime Emmy Award, which she received for the film BESSIE by Dee Rees. She has received two further Academy Nominations for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES and CHOCOLAT by Lasse Hallström, which also earned her a Golden Globe Nomination as well as Bafta nominations for ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT and THE WOMAN IN BLACK.

«I am delighted and honoured to be asked to accept the Career Achievement Award at the 2022 Zurich Film Festival. I feel most humbled to be chosen for such a prestigious award», states Rachel Portman, and adds, «It is a privilege as well to be asked to be the head of the jury for the 10th International Film Music Competition at the Tonhalle Zurich. I greatly look forward to serving on the jury and discovering the talented film composers in the competition. Moreover, it will be fantastic to hear the finalists's scores performed by a live orchestra! I am looking forward very much to coming to Zurich for the Festival.»

Rachel Portman was born in 1960 in Haselmere in the South East of England. After completing her studies in composition at Oxford University, she turned with increasing interest to the mediums of theatre and film. The 1982 student film PRIVILEGED laid the foundation for her film music career, and she went on in 1988 to win the British Film Institute's Young Composer of the Year Award. She attracted Hollywood's attention when she wrote the score for USED PEOPLE in 1992. Rachel Portman has collaborated with such director greats as Mike Leigh (LIFE IS SWEET), Jonathan Demme (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) and Lynne Ramsay (RATCATCHER).

Other films in her oeuvre include OLIVER TWIST by Roman Polanski, BELOVED by Jonathan Demme, BENNY AND JOON by Jeremiah Chechik, NEVER LET ME GO by Mark Romanek, GREY GARDENS by Michael Sucsy, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE by Robert Redford, INE DAY by Lone Scherfig, MONA LISA SMILE by Mike Newell, THE HUMAN STAIN by Robert Benton, THEIR FINEST by Lone Sherfig, A DOG'S PURPOSE by Lasse Halstrom. Her classical work includes an opera of Saint Exupery's Little Prince for Houston Grand Opera, The Water Diviner's Tale an oratorio for BBC Proms, Earth Song for the BBC singers, Ask The River, a collection of pieces for piano, violin and cello and The First Morning of The World for Joyce Di Donato's Eden.

During the «Cinema in Concert» the Tonhalle-Orchestra is playing the three competing scores live. © Gabriel Hill for Zurich Film Festival

This year, and for the tenth time, the Zurich Film Festival and the Tonhalle-Gesellschaft Zürich AG collaborate with the Forum Filmmusik to present the International Film Music Competition (IFMC). Competition entrants are required to create a new and original score for a given short film. «On this evening, too, we will show the versatility of film symphonies. The audience will have the unique opportunity to hear and compare different compositional approaches live in concert», says Marc Barwisch, responsible for artistic planning at Tonhalle-Gesellschaft Zürich, to assure, the musical diversity is great. A jury of internationally renowned professionals will nominate three works from the competition entries. These three winning compositions will be premiered at the Tonhalle Zurich during the Cinema in Concert event on September 29, 2022 by the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich under the musical direction of Frank Strobel and in the presence of the nominees. Presided over by Rachel Portman, the jury will select a winner, who will receive the Golden Eye for «Best International Film Music 2022», an award endowed with a 10’000 Swiss franc cash prize.

The Career Achievement Award will be presented to Rachel Portman during the Cinema in Concert gala event on September 29, 2022 at the Tonhalle Zurich. Music from her oeuvre will also be performed during the event.

Presided over by Rachel Portman, the jury of the IFMC's anniversary edition will, as in previous years, include the German conductor Frank Strobel, who will conduct the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich on the gala evening. Additionally, the international award-winning film score composer Marcel Vaid will make a special guest appearance. With the support of Fondation Suisa, a medley of his best-known works will be performed in his honour. Also a member of the jury is director Barney Cokeliss, whose short film THE FOUNDLING was chosen to form the basis of this year's competition. The short film to be scored by entrants tells the story of an outsider who becomes a travelling circus attraction.


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