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Rachel Portman, for the voice of “The King Shaka” by Antoine Fuqua

Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman received the Career Achievement Award at the Zurich Film Festival on Thursday. She also gave another statuette of the Golden Eye to Robert Ejsenkoesen, winner of the 10th International Film Music Competition. Portman was this year’s jury chair.

‘She’s an exceptional music composer and a wonderful storyteller. She paints feelings with voices. Celebrating an inspiring career in an industry that men have long dominated,’ said artistic director Christian Jungen, with her, longing can sound vague and sadness like hope.

“Her compositions are timeless, personal and universal,” he added.

“My main concern is writing music that really fits the movie. It serves the movie,” Portman said.

The composer – who won an Academy Award for Douglas McGrath’s “Emma” – will now turn her attention to the Showtime mini-series “King Shaka” produced by Antoine Fuqua. Based on a true story, you will see Charles Babalola the founder of the Zulu Empire.

“I am really looking forward to it, because I will be working in a completely new musical language for me: Zulu music. I intend to celebrate and collaborate,” she says. diverse The next day, she also mentioned her work on “Beloved” by the late Jonathan Demme, based on a book by Toni Morrison.

“He was crazy about music and lived and breathed it. He said, ‘Don’t you use classical instruments?’ They are all derived from Africa. We put together this very empirical score, something you can only do with Jonathan, and he went: “This is really gruesome. Let’s put it in Movie “.”

To Portman, who has also recorded the likes of “The Cider House Rules” and “Chocolat,” there is something “strong and nostalgic” about great movie music.

“If you write a piece of music and people end up liking it, that’s great. But I’m responding to the filmmakers. I’m making music that I hope the movie really wants and needs. If I’m serving anyone, that’s my master,” she says.

“The nice thing is to have a director who is generous with his time and able to talk about his intentions. It might be more difficult if they had a bit of musical knowledge. Because then they say, ‘Well, I like the cello and I don’t like the oboe.’”

Despite her experience, Portman still emphasizes the importance of intuition when it comes to her work.

“You either have it or you don’t,” she said, referring to another favorite character.

“I loved working on Never Let Me Go. I think I hit something there, the spirit of loss, youth and love, how much time one can have. In the middle of a very dark and scary story. But my music had nothing to do with that.” .

“It’s total instinct. All we have. There are times when you are presented with a movie that doesn’t resonate that much, and it’s good for me to dig deeper. But movies like ‘Never Let Me Go’ or ‘Chocolat’, they are easy. They give a lot to the composer. “.

Portman used to describe herself in the past as “gender blind”. But, as Jungen noted, she’s been “paving the way for fellow women” for many years now.

“When I was younger, I went through a phase of being ignored. Now, I feel it’s my duty to defend and speak up for composers, about the fact that [the change] It took a long time and was very slow. “I want to celebrate them,” she says.

When they played [the medley of] My music here in Zurich felt…feminine. But I also wrote music with real “balls”, using the whole orchestra and really loud. I found myself thinking: “Why don’t they play that?”

“Later, someone came to me and said, ‘We need your female voice.’ I don’t need to fight against that, which is probably what I’ve been doing for a lot of my career. We need that music too.”

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