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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Switzerland / Germany

Petra Volpe begins principal photography for Heldin

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- The Swiss director is shooting a drama set in a hospital, starring German actress Leonie Benesch

Petra Volpe begins principal photography for Heldin
l-r: Judith Kaufmann, Leonie Benesch and Petra Volpe on the set of Heldin (© Zodiac Pictures/Salvatore Vinci)

The shoot for Petra Volpe's new feature has started. Heldin (lit. “Heroine”) will be filmed over 28 days in Switzerland, in the regions of Basel and Zurich. The shooting locations include a functioning hospital as well as a now defunct one.

The Swiss writer-director has enjoyed considerable success with her latest projects. Her 2017 feature The Divine Order [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Petra Volpe
film profile
]
is a historical tragicomedy about how women in Switzerland fought for their right to vote. In 2015, she adapted the iconic Swiss novel Heidi for the film by Alain Gsponer, Heidi [+see also:
trailer
making of
film profile
]
. The movie was one of the most internationally successful Swiss titles. She also wrote the scripts for the mini-series Frieden and for the comedy Golden Years [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by her fellow countrywoman Barbara Kulcsar.

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Volpe wrote the screenplay for Heldin and is also directing the feature. Once again, the director focuses on an important social and political topic in her new opus. The project is meant as a tribute to carers and medical staff. The intention behind it is to highlight how important good caregiving is for us all, should we ever fall ill. The director says: “My film is inspired by a non-fiction book, long conversations with carers and my research on location in a hospital. The movie makes visible what the abstract term ‘staff shortage’ means in concrete terms for carers and patients.”

The audience is brought into a hospital to witness the everyday life of a nurse called Floria, who rushes from room to room, caring for patients and dedicating time to them that she doesn't actually have. Everyone deals with being ill differently – and everyone needs a different kind of care. Despite the hectic pace of things at the hospital, Floria manages to create enough space for humanity and warmth. But as the day progresses, her work increasingly becomes a race against time.

The main character will be played by German actress Leonie Benesch, who recently appeared in the LUX Audience Award nominee The Teachers’ Lounge [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: İlker Çatak
interview: Leonie Benesch
film profile
]
by German director Ilker Çatak. The feature has also been nominated for the Oscars, in the Best International Film category. Volpe is working with cinematographer Judith Kaufmann for the third time. It will also be the second collaboration between Benesch and Kaufmann, since the latter was responsible for the cinematography on The Teachers’ Lounge.

Heldin is a Swiss-German co-production between Zodiac Pictures in Zurich, MMC Zodiac in Cologne and Swiss television station SRG SSR. Financing comes courtesy of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, the Zurich Film Foundation, Germany’s DFFB, the Aargauer Kuratorium, the canton of Lucerne and Suissimage. The release is planned for 2025: Filmcoopi Zurich will oversee the distribution nationwide, while Tobis will do likewise for Germany and Austria.

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