Zurich Film Festival underway with Oliver Stone’s Savages [pictured], lifetime achievement award for John Travolta.

The eighth Zurich Film Festival opened with a bang last night with the national premiere of Oliver Stone’s thriller Savages and a lifetime achievement award for John Travolta.

National and international stars walked the festival’s ‘green carpet’ on a glamorous evening attended by Stone, Travolta and producers Moritz Borman and Eric Kopeloff at the Kino Corso, Theaterstrasse.

On accepting Zurich’s Golden Eye lifetime achievement award Travolta initially thanked the festival in German before ending with Shakespeare’s most well-known quote: “I guess it’s the old question: to be or not to be. I chose to be, and I guess you’re glad that I did. Thank you.”

In similarly playful mood, Stone thanked the Zurich Film Festival and added: “All the babes are hot here – including the mayor.”

Earlier in the day Travolta had told the media: “It’s always an honour when someone thinks your life is worthy of this kind of acknowledgement…Mine has been a good life, full of ups and downs and filled with fascinating adventures.”

On the night, festival co-director Nadja Schildknecht told the packed auditorium that star-power and industry presence was vital for festival’s future: “In order to grow a film festival you need to attract prolific directors, producers and guests. We are unbelievably happy to welcome Oliver Stone to our festival for the third time and to welcome John Travolta”.

Zurich’s Mayor Corine Mauch called Stone and Travolta “masters in moving hearts and minds,” and with reference to the latter’s famous 70’s disco hit and Savages’ exuberant violence, joked that the opening night film would lead to a “Thursday night fever” in the city.

Swiss Minister of Economy Johann Schneider-Ammann added: “Today, the Zurich Film Festival has established itself in the cinema world. The festival resonates not just over the city and cantonal boundaries; it is recognised around the world as a cultural highlight.”

Stone was in a more reflective mood earlier in the day during the Savages press conference when he discussed his motivation for making the film and its wider themes:

“This was a chance to do a thriller about the cat and mouse games that go on inside a war. I love how each of the characters isn’t what they initially seem to be. But in the end, the film is about the cynicism of the drug war”.

The director was typically outspoken calling “the drug war” a “40 year-old farce” and “a disaster of enormous proportions”: “America has declared war on drugs and on terror and neither of them has worked but have cost huge amounts of money. The war on drugs is about capitalist need, like the war on terror. They are both forever wars. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes. We didn’t learn from Vietnam, Iraq 1 or 2 and we continue to threaten Iran. This doesn’t end,” he added.

The 11-day festival, which runs until Sept 30, will screen 120 films, host high-profile masterclasses and include retrospectives for Tom Tykwer and Helen Hunt, both of whom are attending the festival. It will also kick off its first German-language market, ZFFBoutique.