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“In the long run, it is really not enough to make films for your own home territory”

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Catherine Ann Berger • Director, Swiss Films

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- At the Zurich Film Festival, we chatted to the director of Swiss Films, Catherine Ann Berger, about the agency’s new initiatives and the future of Swiss cinema

Catherine Ann Berger  • Director, Swiss Films
(© Oscar Alessio)

Cineuropa talked to Catherine Ann Berger, the charismatic director of Swiss Films, during the Zurich Film Festival, where we discussed the new initiatives organised by the promotional agency for Swiss filmmaking during the festival itself, but also the future of Swiss cinema outside of Creative Europe.

Cineuropa: Could you tell us more about the new initiatives organised by Swiss Films during the Zurich Film Festival?
Catherine Ann Berger: We organised quite a range of new initiatives. We initiated our first Market Preview, with presentations of upcoming films for selected distributors and sales agents, focusing on promising new titles. We also hosted our first Post-Graduate Talent Day with young talents currently writing and directing their first feature films, offering them an intense exchange with international festival delegates, producers and world sales agents. And we offered five former Swiss EFP Producers on the Move the chance to join the ZFF summit. We’re very happy to say it’s been an overall success.

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Why did you decide to develop your industry activity at the Zurich Film Festival? Do you plan to do the same thing during other Swiss gatherings?
The Zurich Film Festival happens at a perfect time for us in the yearly agenda. We’re ready to show upcoming films heading for festivals early in the new year. We also have a lot of Swiss directors and producers in town for the festival, so it’s easy to arrange meetings – even at short notice – with distributors and sales agents whose interest has been piqued at our Market Preview. We’re also seeing more industry professionals willing to come and scout at the festival – ie, distributors as well as festival delegates from Rotterdam or Saarbrücken, for instance, for whom we organised additional screenings. And working with the industry crew from the Zurich Film Festival – Karl, Reta and Iria – has just been so professional and easy that we all see this collaboration as a win-win situation for everyone. And yes, indeed, we are discussing our next collaboration and initiative in this vein with Emilie Bujès, the new director of Visions du Réel, and I’m happy to announce that we will instigate a Market Preview for documentaries at her festival in April.

In your opinion, what do Swiss cinema and, more specifically, young Swiss directors need?
What we are still seeing is an overall need to encourage people to develop and produce with an international audience in mind. In the long run, it is really not enough to make films for your own home territory. That can work for certain topics and genres like comedies, which work best with home audiences and often don’t travel that easily. But after talking to our younger generation, with great new talents like Simon JaquemetTobias NölleLisa Brühlmann and many more, they all want to tell their stories for a broad, intelligent, demanding and exciting international audience. Being out of Creative Europe really doesn’t help. So we at Swiss Films have a responsibility to step in and create platforms to support our next generation. That’s why we initiated a consultancy position in our company especially to support up-and-coming talent working on first features.

Recently, Swiss Films overhauled its image by transforming its graphic design (plus the Swiss Films Pavilion won the Grand Prix Design Award at Cannes). What are your future plans?
We are indeed very happy with our new design and stand, which are helping to brand Swiss films and the Swiss identity in a new way, and we’re also having fun inserting quotes from new Swiss films. We worked with a renowned Swiss photographer, Mathieux Lavanchy, for all of our key visuals this year. We have just selected our new photographer for next year’s image campaign, but for the announcement of his name, you’ll have to wait. In the meantime, concerning our future appointments, make sure you follow our big focus programme at the Mostra São Paulo, coming up in a couple of weeks. We’re showing more than 40 films, plus there will be a fabulous retrospective of Alain Tanner, who is currently just being rediscovered on an international level, and 20 young Swiss directors and producers will be showing up. We’re all looking forward to the Swiss Showcase in Brazil.

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