Swiss-funded productions gain international visibility

Swiss productions and co-productions are on the increase, driven in part by federal and regional donors, which offer attractive opportunities for national and international filmmakers.

Quickly recovering from the impact of the pandemic, the local film industry has enjoyed another strong year with local films and international co-productions.

Elie Grappe’s Franco-Ukrainian-Swiss title “Olga” premiered at this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, while in Locarno were held “Soul of a Beast” by Lorenz Merz and co-productions. Swiss-internationals like “Monte Verita” by Stefan Jäger and Laurent Geslin’s nature documentary “Lynx”. Venice has seen Swiss co-productions such as “Ariaferma” by Italian director Leonardo Di Costanzo and “El Gran Movimiento” by Bolivian director Kiro Russo. And the opening of this year’s Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) was Michael Steiner’s Swiss-German Taliban thriller “And Tomorrow We’ll Be Dead”.

The rise of Swiss cinema is due in large part to Zurich as a filming location, noted ZFF director Christian Jungen. ZFF and local funder Zürcher Filmstiftung (Zurich Film Fund) once again presented the city’s bustling film sector – Switzerland’s main industrial hub – with their Zurich Film Stroll and Zurich Film Night at the event of this year.

The Zurich Film Fund is one of the largest funders in Switzerland, which together provide a total of CHF 86 million ($ 92.4 million) per year in public film funding. Federal and regional sources also include the Federal Office of Culture (OFC), Cinéforom, the Swiss television channel SRG SSR and other local authorities.

The largest funder of feature films is FOC, with a combined annual budget of CHF 28.5 million ($ 30.6 million) for various programs. The Film Investment Refund Switzerland (PICS) program, for example, allocates CHF 6 million ($ 6.45 million) to Swiss-international co-productions, reimbursing 20 to 40% of eligible film production expenses generated in Switzerland.

With an annual budget of CHF 12 million ($ 12.9 million), the Zurich Film Fund is the country’s largest regional funder, focusing on the canton of Zurich and in particular its capital. Supported co-productions must devote 150% of their funding to the region.

Cinéforom, the second regional fund with 10 million francs (10.7 million dollars), covers the whole of French-speaking Switzerland; grants must be fully spent in the region.

While the broadcaster SRG is the largest source of funding in the country, with an annual commitment to Swiss cinema of 32.5 million francs ($ 34.9 million) for the period 2020-2023, this sum does not include than 9 million francs (9.7 million dollars) per year for the feature film in theaters. films and CHF 1 million ($ 1.07) for motion pictures. On the other hand, the pubcaster supports television productions to the tune of 19 million francs (20.4 million dollars).

Recent international co-productions that have received Swiss funding include the family drama “Beyond the Horizon” by Delphine Lehericey; Milo Rau’s political passion piece “The New Gospel”; Samir’s tale of Iraqi immigrants “Baghdad in my shadow”; Blaise Harrison’s teen drama “Particles”; and Stefan Haupt’s historic photo “The Reformer. Zwingli – The portrait of a lifetime.

Film projects currently in preparation or in production that have also secured Swiss funding include:

  • Samir’s “Stranger in a Village”, a semi-fictional racism story inspired by James Baldwin’s stay in 1951 in the seaside resort of Leukerbad which led to his essay of the same title, and “Flükiger und die Suche nach Wahrheit ”by Werner Schweizer. both produced by Zurich-based Dschoint Ventschr de Samir, specializing in international co-productions;

  • “Bachmann und Frisch” by Margarethe von Trotta on Ingeborg Bachmann, a radical Austrian writer and poet, her life in Berlin, Zurich and Rome and her relationship with author Max Frisch;

  • “The Flying Mountain” by Nicolas Steiner, based on Christoph Ransmayr’s novel about two brothers who left Ireland for Tibet, where they set out in search of a nameless, unclimbed mountain;

  • “5 euros” by Cosima Frei, about a retired single man who falls in love with a young Afghan refugee while he buys sex;

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