Balance 2011: Swiss films excel at international festivals
Fifty-eight new Swiss Film productions were invited to major international film festivals in 2011. In addition, SWISS FILMS presented individual filmmakers and their works abroad with 27 Swiss film programmes encompassing 318 works. There was a striking increase again in the number of awards for Swiss film productions: 129 films (2010: 109) were honoured with 273 awards (2010: 202) and won monetary prizes amounting to a total of more than CHF 586’000. Swiss film productions celebrated their premieres in competition at the Berlinale, in Cannes, Locarno, Venice, San Sebastian and at the Sundance Festival, six of the most important film festivals worldwide. SWISS FILMS supported festival participation with financial contributions, the purchase of subtitled prints for festivals and networking.
"Standing out among the fiction films was Rolando Colla's "Summer Games," which premiered in Venice, as well as the film "Abrir puertas y ventanas" by Swiss-Argentine director Milagros Mumenthaler, which was honoured with the most prestigious awards in Locarno and Mar del Plata," explained Micha Schiwow, director of SWISS FILMS, and added: "Swiss documentary film held their own internationally, for example, "Day Is Done" in Berlin, "An African Election" at Sundance, "Vol spécial" in Locarno or "The Substance - Albert Hoffmann's LSD" in Amsterdam and Leipzig."
The 58 new Swiss film productions encompassed 19 fiction, 17 documentary and 22 short film productions, nine of which were animation films and one experimental film. The number of fiction films thus lies above the average recorded for the past five years (cf. Table III). "Summer Games," produced by Elena Pedrazzoli, celebrated its premiere in the official festival programme in Venice and has since launched a notable festival career with presence at the international festivals in Busan, Sao Paulo, Toronto and Warsaw. The film is the Swiss candidate in the running for an Oscar nomination. Another highlight was Peter Luisi's fiction film "Der Sandmann," which has been honoured with 17 awards. The following Swiss coproductions with foreign directors were screened in competition in Berlin, Cannes (Directors' Fortnight section), Venice and San Sebastian: "The Turin Horse" by Hungarian director Béla Tarr, coproduced by Vega Film in Zurich; "Corpo celeste" by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, coproduced by Amka Films in Ticino; "Un été brûlant" by French director Philippe Garrel, coproduced by Prince Film in Jura; and "Los pasos dobles" by Spanish director Isaki Lacuesta, coproduced by Bord Cadre Films in Geneva, and honoured with the Grand Prize "Concha d'oro" in San Sebastian. In addition to the premieres in 2011, numerous productions from the previous year were invited to major international festivals (cf. Table I).
The international status of and appreciation for Swiss documentary filmmaking was confirmed once again. While Swiss audiences favoured documentary films which deal with life and customs in rural and Alpine areas, for instance, "Hoselupf," "Arme Seelen" or "Sentier des vaches," audiences abroad preferred more universal themes: apart from "An African Election" in Sundance, "Day Is Done" and "Mit dem Bauch durch die Wand" at the Berlinale, Fernand Melgar's "Vol spécial" in particular aroused considerable interest at many festivals and captured a great deal of attention in the media at home and abroad. Swiss documentary filmmaking demonstrated world class with two films in competition at the Japanese mecca of documentary films - the Yamagata Film Festival - including one of the main awards for "Die Frau mit den 5 Elefanten."
Swiss short film productions were screened in the main sections of festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Venice: "Nuvem" by Basil Da Cunha in Cannes; "Stick Climbing" by Daniel Zimmermann in Berlin; and "Dialogischer Abrieb" by Yves Netzhammer in Venice. It was confirmed that short films come into their own two years and more after a festival. Many short film productions from the previous year reaped awards at festivals in 2011. Highlights are: "Yuri Lennon's Landing On Alpha 46" by Anthony Vouardoux - he was honoured with 13 festival awards and the Swiss Film Prize "Quartz" in 2011, amounting to a total of CHF 50'000, after having already garnered ten awards the previous year. "Kwa Heri Mandima" won ten international festival awards and was screened in competition in Toronto, Aspen and Sao Paulo. The following animation films rank among the festival favourites in this genre: "Der grosse Bruder" by Jesus Pérez and Elisabeth Hüttermann; "La fille et le chasseur" by Jadwiga Kowalska; and "Romance" by Georges Schwizgebel.
A number of film festivals proved to be ideal platforms for multi-part film programmes also in 2011. These film programmes serve to foster the international awareness of Swiss filmmaking and networking among filmmakers. SWISS FILMS initiated and presented 27 film programmes this year, with Latin America and China as the focus regions. In Argentina Swiss films were present at the major festivals in Buenos Aires, among others, including homage to Thomas Imbach and to Daniel Schmid. Furthermore, the major retrospective showcasing Alain Tanner works began in the Cinemateca Argentina and toured throughout Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador and Mexico. Fernand Melgar presented his three most recent award-winning films in Columbia and opened the festival in Bogotá with "La forteresse." The documentary film festival in Santiago de Chile honoured Richard Dindo's work with a retrospective.
Anka Schmid and Béatrice Bakhti presented their works in Beijing and led workshops for Chinese filmmakers. Eighteen of the 27 events were carried out with festival partners, six in collaboration with film archives and two with further partners (cf. Table V).
In 2011, 19 feature films, 38 feature-length documentary films and 72 short films - 25 of which were animation films - won awards at international festivals in Switzerland and abroad. These 129 films won a total of CHF 586'000 in monetary prizes. The nominations for the Swiss Film Prize "Quartz 2011" are not included in this figure. Compared to the previous year, more feature films won awards. The total monetary value lies at 33% above last year. Approximately CHF 192'000 was won at festivals abroad and CHF 394'000 at Swiss festivals. Documentary films, in particular, generated monetary prizes and non-cash benefits amounting to CHF 153'000 (26% of the total amount), with short films generating CHF 277'000 (47%). These awards constitute an additional financing which should not be underestimated (cf. Tables II and IV).
SWISS FILMS, the promotion agency, supported the presence of Swiss film productions at film festivals abroad with networking and promotional contributions amounting to a total of CHF 210'000, as well as with the purchase of prints for international use amounting to CHF 160'000.
Zurich, December 6, 2011
Table I: Swiss films screened in main sections of major international film festivals 2011 PDF
Table II: Awards for Swiss films at international festivals 2011 PDF
Table III: Statistics: Swiss films in the main sections of major international film festivals 2005-2011 PDF
Table IV: Statistics: Awards and monetary prizes at film festivals and events 2007-2011 PDF