Country Focus: Switzerland
Switzerland wishes to participate in the MEDIA Programme again
by Birgit Heidsiek
- An important topic that concerns the Swiss film industry at the moment is the country’s exclusion from MEDIA support, which came about as a result of the national referendum “against mass immigration”, which took place in February this year. Measures such as the reintroduction of quotas and caps for the immigration of foreigners are not reconcilable with the free movement of people within the EU. For this reason, Switzerland can no longer participate in the MEDIA Programme. According to Ivo Kummer, head of the film department at the Federal Office of Culture, Swiss films run the risk of disappearing completely from cinemas in EU countries.
This issue was discussed at the StepIn.ch forum during the 67th Locarno Film Festival. “We decided to give the representatives from the Swiss film industry a chance to meet with European industry participants,” underlines Nadia Dresti, head of international at Locarno. According to Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages, Switzerland is clearly the loser in this situation because apart from the MEDIA Programme and the promotional agency Swiss Films, there is no national institution for the export of Swiss movies. Meanwhile, countries such as France actively support their film industry abroad because they consider films as part of their marketing strategy for culture, trade and tourism.
“I will think twice about buying a Swiss film now,” says Jean-Christophe Simon, CEO of Berlin-based international sales agent Films Boutique. “Distributors won’t buy a Swiss film, because they don’t get any distribution support from MEDIA.” Since the beginning of this year, Switzerland has had the same third-country status as Albania or Lebanon in the programme, Kummer adds. European distributors no longer have any incentive to promote films from Switzerland.
While European distributors have to deal with the lack of MEDIA support for Swiss films, the Swiss government has agreed on a temporary solution to compensate for the lack of MEDIA money going to the country’s film industry. The Swiss Parliament agreed that an amount of CHF 5 million would be spent on six support programmes for national producers, distributors, festivals, markets and educational projects. Handled by MEDIA Desk Suisse, the eligibility criteria for the support will be similar to those for the MEDIA Programme.
In the long run, Switzerland wishes to participate in the EU programme again. The first steps could be taken when Brussels receives an official negotiating mandate in the autumn. At Locarno, Alain Berset, Swiss Minister for Culture, declared that the government is aiming to reintegrate Switzerland into the MEDIA Programme during the first few months of 2015. But it takes two to negotiate this issue: now it’s Brussels’ turn.