Helmut Zerlett, born in Cologne in 1957, where he now lives and works, is a film composer, bandleader and keyboarder. He is one of the film composers who also enjoys a high reputation among his colleagues – not least because he is an excellent (live) musician and entertainer who bestows great energy onto every formation. Visitors to BIFF will remember his contribution to Akademix, the band of the German Film Academy, which has accompanied the BIFF award ceremonies for many years. As early as the 80s, Zerlett had chart successes, including the dancefloor classic "Masimbabele", and began to compose music for films. He was taught by Holger Czukay, a Stockhausen student, was involved in the "Neue Deutsche Welle" with Joachim Witt, produced in London and New York, played live and in the studio for over 20 years with Marius Müller Westernhagen and worked with Chris Newman. He achieved celebrity status as bandleader and sidekick of the late-night-shows with Harald Schmidt from 1995 to 2014. 

To date Zerlett has composed the music for 22 feature films, 28 TV films and more than 90 TV episodes. At BIFF this year, he will be receiving the "White Lion" for his life's work.

2018: Irmin Schmidt

Irmin Schmidt, born in Berlin in 1937, constantly reinvented himself and continued to develop. First of all, he learnt to play the piano, became a piano teacher, studied under Legeti and Stockhausen, composed for theatre
and ballet, celebrated successes as a director. In 1967, he was invited to New York to take part in the International Conductors’ Competition and met there Velvet Underground, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and John Cale.
When he returned, he looked for new ways, and in 1968 founded CAN, which became one of the most important German bands. Bowie, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Portishead are all without CAN “not conceivable“- is
how director Wim Wenders describes it. After CAN, Schmidt made, amongst other things, 12 solo albums, the opera GORMENGHAST and 80 film soundtracks. During this work, he has had a great impact on the development of film music in Germany: he was one of the first to work with improvisation, utilizes sounds, sound manipulation, electronic sounds and elements of world music.
The group improvisations of CAN were legendary during which only Schmidt actually knew the film and then described the storyline and moods to the rest of the band. Schmidt has been awarded the Echo, the Honorary Prize of SoundTrack_Cologne as well as the French Ordre des Lettres. He is awarded for his life work with the "White Lion" at the BIFF this year.

2017: Jan A. P. Kaczmarek

Kaczmarek is the first Polish Oscar award-winner. When he moved to the USA from Poland in 1989, he was able to already look back on a successful career as a theatre and film composer. In the USA he was first of all successful with theatre music and won the Obie Award and the Drama Desk Award. He soon managed to get a foothold in the US movie industry, and he wrote music for sixty films, including BLISS (1997), UNFAITHFUL (2002), EVENING (2007) and HACHI: A DOG'S TALE (2009). Kaczmarek composed for directors like Lasse Hallström, Agnieszka Holland, Lajos Koltai or Adrian Lyne. In 2005, he won the Oscar for the best film music for FINDING NERVERLAND.

Apart from his music, Kaczmarek presides over the film and music festival TRANSATLANTYK Lodz, which he founded in 20122 and which attracted 63,000 visitors in 2017. He has been awarded the Polonia Restituta medal.

2016: Patrick Doyle

Patrick Doyle was bron in Scotland in 1953 and graduated from the Royal Scottish from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 1975, where he studied piano and singing. He has written music for radio, television, theatre, film and concert hall.

Doyle joined the Renaissance Theatre Company as composer and musical dircetor in 1987. In 1989 director Sir Kenneth Branagh commisioned him to compose the score for HENRY V and they have subsequently collaborated on numerous pictures. The score for THOR si a perfect symbiosis of typical blockbster music elements and Doyle's very own melodic lyrical signature that paved the way for more musical diversity in Hollywood.

Doyle has received two Oscar, two Golden Globe and two Césa nominations. He has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Scottish BAFTA.

2015: Marcel Barsotti

Bron in Lucerne (Switzerland), Barsotti studied composition from 1982-1988 as well as piano and clarinet at the Conservatory of Munich. Since 1995 Barsotti has composed the scores for more than 60 national and international movies. In 2010 Barsotti received the "Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik" (German Record Critic's Award) and the "Directors Choice Gold Medal" for Excellence for POPE JOAN by the Park City Film Music Festival in Utah. In 2002 he released the first ethnic music library "Ethno World".


2014: Jean-Michel Bernand

The soul legend Ray Charles caleld him a genius, Michel Gondry relied on his musical ingenuity to counter his visual grandeur: Jean-Michel Bernard is one of film music's most versatile artists. Trademark of his work is an ever present plafulness, be it cool and catchy for a heist movie or cold and distrubing for a relationship drama.

Classically trained and influenced by jazz he started to work in the film industry by collaborating with masters such as Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone. His true calling came when he was asked to write the songs for video film director Michel Gondry's  first feature film HUMAN NATURE. 


2013: Niki Reiser

From 1980 - 1984 Reiser studied jazz and calssic with the focus on filmmusic at the Berklee school of Music in Boston. After returning to Switzerland, he founded a jazz band. In 1986 he met the film director Dani Levy.

Apart from beeing loyal for years to Dani Levy, he has also been loyal to Caroline Link - and they to him. He wrote the music score for her film EXIT MARRAKECH. Niki Reiser's gift of engaging himself with all sorts of differing styles is particulary valued.

2012: Ludovic Bource

Bource began his career composing music for commercials, but later moved on to short films, such as, En attendant (2000), Spartacus (2003), and Sirene Song (2005). After working on the Michel Hazanavicius film Mes amis, Bource has become a long-time collaborator with the director. He has since scored such Hazanavicius films as OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006), its sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009), and most recently the black-and-white silent film The Artist (2011).

The latter, recorded with award-winning Brussels Philharmonic, elevated Bource to international fame and earned him numerous accolades, including a César Award, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar. He was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in June 2012 along with 175 other individuals.



FALL ON YOUR SWORD are Will Bates and Phil Mossman. Though originally from London, Bates and Mossman met in Brooklyn where they now record and reside. The duo has gained swift recognition as a rising force in the world of contemporary film scoring as well as recording/performing  artists and viral video mavericks.

The duo presented their work on a German festival at the BIFF for the first time.


2010: Shigeru Umebayashi

Born in Kita-Jyushu, Japan, on 19 February 1951, Shigeru Umebayashi, or Umé, began his career as leader of Japanese new wave rockband EX. After their breakup, he worte and produced a record for famous actor Yusaka Matsuda who introduced Umé to the world of filmmusic. His international accalim came in 1995 with THE CHRIST OF NANJING.

Umebayashi wrote music for over 40 films. In Europe he is most famous for his collaboration with Wong Kar wai and Zhang Yimou. By now he also does work for the European cinema, from author's films like ABSURDISTAN to blockbusters like HANNIBAL RISING. 

2009: Alexandre Desplat

Film music theorists like to distinguish between the American craftsmen and the European stylists: on the one side composer who willingly comply to the demands of the film products, on the other those who maintain the musical voice.

Alexandre desplat, born in paris 1961, is a rare exception as he belongs to neither category but works in betwwen. 

He is at home on both sides of the Atlantic, be considered the busiest film composer of the planet, with nine score in 2009, among them so different as CHERI or COCO CHANEL. Desplat has a refined method that can be WITH A PEARL EAR RING: his light, playful sound miniatures working with short rhythmic components achieve a hypnotic effect. This way Desplat creates excellent results: the elegic piono soli in best Bach manner of THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPS was awarded a silver bear in berlin in 2005

2008: Michael Nyman

When Michael Nyman published his study "Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond" (1974), he could hardly have foreseen his own contribution to that beyond. Disaffected with then current orthodoxies of international modernism, Nyman abandoned composition in 1964 temporarily, preffering to work as a musicologist.

Works for the Michael Nymam Band have dominated his output, but the composer has written for a wide variety of ensembles, including symphony orchestra, a cappella chorus and string quartet. He has written serveral stage works, notably.

His music has reached its largrst audience by way of his film scores, most famously for Peter Greenaway, with whom he collaborated on five feature films. He has provided music for a computer game and silent films. Nyman was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2008.

2007: Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickson is a respected british film- and stage composer who continually collaborates with director Mike Leigh. He began his career in the theatre, working varously as an actor, musician, director, writer, music director and composer.

During the 1070s he worked for some of the findest companies in the United Kigndom, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Kageboushi Theatre Company in Tokyo. He made his film music debut in the late 1980s, winning a European Film Award for his score for Leigh's HIGH HOPES and the ASCAP film Score Award 1996 for SCRETS & LIES

2006: Carl Davis

Carl Davis has written music for more than 100 television programmes, but is best known for creating music to accompany silent films. He also collaborated with Paul McCartney in the creation of the Liverpool Oratorio. Davis also worked for television producer Jeremy Isaacs in providing the original music for the documentary history series THE WOLRD AT WAR (1973) for Thames Television and COLD WAR (1998).

By 1993, his reputation made him the number one choice for new scores to silent films. Many DVD releases, including BEN-HUR (1925) and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925).

2005: Craig Armstrong

For ten years now Craig Armstrong is one of the most requested film music composers of his generation. He has enriched songs by U2 or Madonna with his string music and wrote the world-wide hit "I Don'nt Want A Lover" for Texas. 

Born in Glasgow in 1959, Armstrong studied composition and piano at the renowned Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1981 he received the Harvey Lohr scholarship for composition and in 1982 he won the GLAA young jazz musician of the year.

After working with Peter Mullan on the prize-winning short film trilogy "CLOSE / A GOOD DAY FOR THE BAD GUYS / FRIDGE, Armstrong finally made his international breakthrough as a film music composer in 1996  with ROMEO + JULIET by Baz Luhrmann.