Illustrious awards and notable debut films characterise Swiss filmmaking internationally in 2017

Illustrious awards and notable debut films characterise Swiss filmmaking internationally in 2017

The two multi-award-winning Swiss films MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI by Claude Barras and THE DIVINE ORDER by Petra Volpe are the most successful Swiss productions in 2017. Furthermore, a number of emerging filmmakers from Switzerland attracted a great deal of attention at international film festivals with their debut and short film productions, including Jan-Eric Mack, who won a Student Academy Award with his short film FACING MECCA and is currently on the shortlist for the 2018 Oscars. By contrast, the international box-office figures for film productions with Swiss participation were on the decrease in 2017.

Swiss filmmaking began extremely successful in 2017 with MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI by director Claude Barras, from Valais, garnering the Oscar nomination in the category of Best Animated Feature Film and winning two César awards. For the first time, Switzerland was present at the Academy Awards with three films: with an Oscar nomination for not only MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI, but also Timo von Gunten’s LA FEMME ET LE TGV (Live Action Short Film) and Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (Documentary Feature), coproduced by Joëlle Bertossa at Close Up Films. Yet another international success was celebrated by Swiss director Heidi Specogna, who was honoured with the Lola for Best Documentary Film at the German Film Award 2017 for her film, the Swiss-German coproduction CAHIER AFRICAIN.

The crowning achievement of MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI’s unparalleled success story occurred in December with three further awards at the first European Animation Awards (Emile Awards) and the award for Best Screenplay at Trophées Francophones du Cinéma.

Divine awards and figures
THE DIVINE ORDER by Petra Volpe celebrated its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April with three awards (Audience Award, Award for Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film, Nora Ephron Prize for writer/director). The film about the late adoption of the women’s right to vote in Switzerland was Switzerland’s official entry for the 90th Academy Awards in the Foreign Language Film category.

THE DIVINE ORDER was screened with tremendous success in Swiss cinemas this year (distribution: Filmcoopi). Domestic ticket sales amounted to more than 340,000, thereby ranking the film among this year’s top three in Swiss cinema. The Danish world sales firm TrustNordisk has already sold the film in over 30 countries. It was released in cinemas in Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Canada and the USA. With around half a million entries around the globe thus far, it is the most successful Swiss production internationally.

Decline in international box-office figures
Compared with the past two peak years, the number of ticket sales for films with Swiss participation decreased significantly on a global scale in 2017 (from 3.7 to approximately 1 million). As a result, the international box-office figures for Swiss film productions are at 2012 levels. The decline in attendance figures involves minority and majority Swiss coproductions in equal measure, whereas Swiss productions were able to record a slight increase.

Several factors contributed to the decline: on the one hand, there was a decrease in the number of Swiss film productions with international cinema releases (from 62 to approximately 40 films); on the other hand, there was a lack of outstanding Swiss (co)productions in 2017 such as YOUTH or SILS MARIA and family films like the box-office hits HEIDI and MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI. Concurrently, the drop in cinemagoers in the art-house sector is an international trend.

Promising up-and-coming filmmakers in Switzerland
New talents in Swiss filmmaking have caused quite a stir this year: Maryam Goormaghtigh, Karim Sayad, Katharina Wyss, Cyril Schäublin, as well as Lisa Brühlmann and Dominik Locher, “the new power couple of Swiss filmmaking” (Die Zeit). Film director Goormaghtigh presented her documentary road movie BEFORE SUMMER ENDS in Cannes (ACID); Lisa Brühlmann celebrated the world premiere of her first feature-length fiction film BLUE MY MIND at the Film Festival San Sebastian (New Directors) and garnered three awards at the Zurich Film Festival. GOLIATH by Dominik Locher was screened at the Locarno Festival (Concorso Internazionale) and subsequently in Busan, São Paolo and Tallinn. Schäublin travelled with THOSE WHO ARE FINE to Locarno (Cineasti del presente) and thereafter to Thessaloniki and Bilbao. Debut films by young Swiss filmmakers such as OF SHEEP AND MEN by Karim Sayad or SARAH PLAYS A WEREWOLF by Katharina Wyss attracted a great deal of attention at the A-festivals in Toronto and Venice.

Swiss presence in São Paulo
The strong emerging talents from Switzerland were also dominant at the 41st International Film Festival São Paulo, one of the most important festivals in Latin America, where Switzerland was featured as a guest country with over 40 films. At the same time, Mostra São Paulo screened an extensive Alain Tanner retrospective and showcased a special programme of productions by Georges Schwizgebel who, just prior to this, was presented the Honorary Cristal Award for his oeuvre at the Animation Film Festival in Annecy 2017. Further programmes were also devoted to the doyen Alain Tanner: for example, the retrospective at the Metrograph movie theater in New York, which triggered a broad response in the media, ranging from the New York Times to the Vogue magazine.

The Swiss showcase in Brazil was initiated by SWISS FILMS on behalf of the Federal Office of Culture (SFOC) in collaboration with Mostra and with support from Switzerland’s diplomatic and consular authorities in Brazil.

Successful short films from Switzerland
The year 2017 was once again a strong year for Swiss short films. Five short productions were eligible for the 90th Academy Awards shortlist as a result of winning awards at Oscar-qualifying festivals: apart from Jan-Eric Mack’s FACING MECCA, the two animation films WHATEVER THE WEATHER by Remo Scherrer and IN A NUTSHELL by Fabio Friedli, as well as the two documentary films EN LA BOCA by Matteo Gariglio and MORIOM by Francesca Scalisi and Mark Olexas.

FACING MECCA won an award at the Student Academy Awards and is currently on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination in the Live Action Short Film category, EN LA BOCA was nominated for the European Film Award 2017. Furthermore, AIRPORT by Michaela Müller and THE LITTLE BIRD AND THE CATERPILLAR by Lena von Döhren ranked among the festival hits in 2017.

SWISS FILMS, the promotion agency, facilitates the international dissemination of Swiss film productions with support measures, professional consultation and promotional activities on behalf of the Federal Office of Culture.

SWISS FILMS, 20.12.2017