Switzerland makes a great leap forward

The Swiss children’s film industry is ready for a great leap forward. One of the instigators is Swiss ECFA member Zoomz. Another crucial player is cultural fund Suissimage, coming up with a profound investment in children’s film production.

In the Kinderfilm working group, launched in 2018, organisations and individuals are represented who all believe that the current production and distribution landscape for children’s films in Switzerland is insufficient. John Wäfler (Zoomz): “Children’s films have not yet gained the weight that they should have on Swiss TV and in cinema theatres. Hence, our working group offers to directors, producers, programmers and cinema owners a space for common action, such as training and lobbying events,” the first of which was organised during the Zoomz festival under the title ‘Beyond Heidi – a training event for film producers & funders’ (financed by Suissimage).

Both professional categories were addressed by international experts (respectively Dries Phlypo from the Belgian company A Private View, script consultant Rüdiger Hillmer and Signe Zeilich-Jensen from the Dutch Film Fund). Wäfler: “A successful film like HEIDI (photo) was proof that children’s films do stand a chance in this country. The adaptation by Alain Gsponer was sold to 25 countries and reached out to more than half a million domestic spectators. But we believe that the youngest audience has the right to be exposed to new narratives and contemporary themes, that can’t be found in the books that already our grandparents have been reading.

It was no coincidence that Zoomz was the perfect place for the group to gather for the first time: “Together with Castellinaria (Bellinzona) and the Festival Cinéma Jeune Public, Zoomz is one of the few places in Switzerland screening original children’s films. In our festival work we can witness how watching those films is a rewarding experience for young audiences. Thanks to that meeting, funding bodies started to notice that there is a vibrant industry in Europe producing high-quality content for young audiences. Actually, we were surprised to see how little was known about European children’s films in Switzerland.

At the same moment when the Kinderfilm group was making their plea, Suissimage (Swiss authors’ rights cooperative for audiovisual works) came with positive news. They are about to launch the first Swiss children’s film support programme in the autumn of 2019. The fund will dedicate a yearly budget of CHF200,000 to the development of original Swiss children’s films, for a minimum period of two years. With this support programme, the fund aims to encourage directors and authors in targeting an under 12 audience through original stories and contemporary themes.

The details of the support programme will be published here by Suissimage in August.