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Schellenursli A boy, a bell and the big screen

Classic Swiss children’s book Schellenursli, “A Bell for Ursli”, is being turned into a film. swissinfo.ch spent a day on set with the director, crew, actors and culture minister.

The adventures of little Ursli, with his curly locks and pointed hat, have delighted millions of children. Seventy years after the publication of the story by Selina Chönz and Alois Carigiet, Swiss director Xavier Koller brings the classic to the screen. 

The story takes place in the Lower Engadine valley in eastern Switzerland. Every March 1, children parade through the village streets with cowbells to drive away winter and welcome spring. Ursli desperately wants to take part in this Chalandamarz festival, but with his little bell he finds himself relegated to the back of the parade. Unknown to his parents, he heads up into the Alps – in the dead of winter – looking for a bigger cowbell. The adventure has begun… 

Published in Romansh in 1945, “A Bell for Ursli” has sold a million copies and was translated into nine languages. The film, directed by Xavier Koller, who won an Oscar in 1991 with “Journey of Hope”, cost CHF5.5 million ($5.7 million) and has won the enthusiastic support of the Engadine region. It hopes the continuing international fame of the story will bring in much-needed tourist money. 

Meanwhile, a special guest appeared on set: culture minister Alain Berset. “Standing here among the actors, I get the feeling of being part of the story and going back in time,” he told swissinfo.ch. 

“A Bell for Ursli” is due to open in Swiss cinemas on October 15.


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