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Country Focus: Switzerland

Swiss Films: an interface for the industry

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Swiss Films: an interface for the industry

- The Italian-Swiss coproduction Via Castellana Bandiera [+see also:
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interview: Emma Dante
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]
by Emma Dante is competing for the Golden Lion in Venice and Thomas Imbach’s costume drama Mary Queen of Scots [+see also:
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will be presented at the film market in Toronto, while last year’s Locarno closing night film More Than Honey [+see also:
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interview: Markus Imhoof
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]
is being released in the US now. “This Swiss documentary was extremely successful,” says Catherine Ann Berger (photo), director of the promotion agency Swiss Films. “It was internationally sold to 28 territories.“

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

When US filmmaker Michael Moore saw the budging beekeeper film, heinvited the director Markus Imhoof to present his documentary at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. More Than Honey is being released in Los Angeles and New York this summer. “We are going to conquer the US market and present the film in eleven cities,” reports Catherine Ann Berger. “Such a strong film supports other productions. This is important for a small country like Switzerland to be able to further sensitize the audience for Swiss films.”

In no other European country are documentaries more appreciated than in Switzerland where people are queuing up for them. “There are tendencies that the audience’s appreciation of documentaries is getting stronger in Europe as a reaction to the development of the increasing privatization of the news,” emphasizes the director of Swiss Films. “There is a need for another kind of storytelling and another approach to reality. In Switzerland we have a long tradition of taking a look at different points of view and showing different angles in complex situations."

At this year’s Locarno Film Festival, Swiss films such as the comedy Les grandes ondes [+see also:
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interview: Lionel Baier
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by Lionel Baier and the political portrait L‘expérience Blocher [+see also:
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by Jean-Stéphane Bron were presented at the Piazza Grande while Thomas Imbach’s huge English-language drama Mary Queen of Scots was shown in competition. “I am proud to promote these new films,” underlines Berger. “It is not only the upcoming film that counts for us but also what kind of career a film has made.” An example for such a success story is Sister [+see also:
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interview: Kacey Mottet Klein
interview: Ursula Meier
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]
by Ursula Meier who won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale 2012. The Swiss filmmaker was recently invited as a jury member to the Moscow International Film Festival where a retrospective of her films was shown and Sister was sold to a Russian distributor.

“In Switzerland we have three languages and three cultures,” states Berger. “In addition to the Romandy, the German speaking Swiss, Ticino and the Rhaetian there is something like a new fifth Switzerland; Swiss with migrant family backgrounds.” As a British-Swiss citizen herself who studied in Austria and worked as a presenter for German television, Berger sees the strength of Switzerland’s diversity in a cultural and political sense. “Filmmakers such as the Swiss-Iranian director Kaveh Bakhtiari who shot the documentary L'Escale [+see also:
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about illegal immigrants in Athens show us another view of the world. It is important that we don’t nail ourselves to nationalisms in a European film context. The origin of a film is of course important for the identity of a country but we have moved on so much in Europe with the Schengen Agreement. “Since coproductions are getting more and more important to finance films it makes no sense to rely on strictly national identities. Identities are changing and Switzerland is a perfect example. Many forms and ways of storytelling is one of the strengths of Swiss cinema.”

For Catherine Ann Berger, film is business as well as culture and communication. “Cooperation is much easier if there is a common ground of understanding. At Swiss Films we promote the cinematic art but we also work with professional industry tools such as our own Swiss Films website on Cinando or our new online video library for short films that is accessible for world sales, distributors and festivals.” The film professionals can stream or download the short films in the virtual video library with a password. “It is important to stay in touch with world sales and international distributors,” affirms the director of Swiss Films. “After the festivals and before the festivals.”

The theatrical release of Swiss films abroad is supported by the Bundesamt für Kultur with an annual budget ranging between 250,000 and 300,000 CHF. While the selection of the distribution support for additional marketing measures are made by five jury members, Swiss Films handles the applications.

“We are trying to be more present with documentaries on video-on-demand platforms,” says Berger. “The context in which audiences consume films has changed tremendously.” Festivals are getting more important because there is a growing number of films released theatrically and the release window is getting shorter because there is so much competition. “For filmmakers it is important that their films find an audience. It is however a growing reality that not all films are watched in the cinema.”

Thanks to the database of Swiss Films where all the projects are listed already at an early development stage, the organization has a complete overview over all productions. This essential source of information is useful for promotion purposes and the Swiss Film Awards but also the film funds. “We can generate industry news on social media so that the world sales will be aware of the productions at an early stage,” sums up Berger. “Swiss Films can provide this flow of information.“

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