Stars Helen Hunt and John Hawkes are among the guests at the Zurich Film Festival.


Helen Hunt, John Hawkes and director Ben Lewin were at the Zurich Film Festival yesterday for the European premiere of Sundance hit The Sessions.

Hunt was also the recipient of Zurich’s Golden Eye Award: “I’ve decided it’s an award marking the mid-point in my career,” joked the Oscar-winning actress. “I have worked a long time on so many things I’m proud of so I’m thrilled about this award,” she said.

The Sessions, which picked up the Audience Award and Special Jury Prize in Sundance, was well-received by its first non-English language audience when it screened last night to a packed Kino Corso.

The comedy-drama tells the true story of a 38-year-old disabled man who contacts a professional sex surrogate when he wants to lose his virginity.

Hunt, Hawkes and Lewin, along with producers Judi Lewine and Stephen Nemeth and actress Blake Linsdley spoke to the media about the film earlier in the day.

“We adorn sexuality with so many prejudices and fears,” said Hunt, who is naked on a number of occasions in the film. “This is a version of sexuality that drops that for 90 minutes. The film strips away the shame and the cliché, the half covering, the lighting and the music with which we adorn the topic of sexuality in films”.

“I was initially worried about being an able bodied person playing a disabled person,” said Hawkes. “Disabled actors are certainly under-represented in America. Ben assured me that he had searched for his Mark O’Brien among disabled actors but hadn’t found the right person”.

“The part represented a real challenge,” continued Hawkes.”But the character of Mark jumped off the page at me for his sense of humour and fighting spirit.”

In response to a question about the imbalance between female and male nudity in the film, Hawkes quipped: “As a global actor, when it’s so difficult to maintain any sort of mystery about yourself, I’m glad that there’s one thing about me that is still unknown.”