Late Bloomers, a comedy about how the opening of a lingerie shop scandalises a small Swiss village, has been selected to represent Switzerland at the 2008 Oscars.This content was published on September 28, 2007 - 17:02
The film, which was a huge hit in Switzerland and made a star of its now 87-year-old leading actress, has also attracted international interest.
The Federal Culture Office said it was putting forward Late Bloomers, directed by Bettina Oberli, for the Best Foreign Language Film category because of its universal themes and the high quality of its screenplay, directing and casting.
It said the film's popularity both in Switzerland and abroad, the enthusiastic reviews and the fact that it had the support of distributor Buena Vista International had convinced the office's group of experts of Late Bloomers' Oscar potential.
Around 600,000 people have seen the film in Switzerland, making it one of the most popular productions of the last 25 years and the second-most popular Swiss film ever. It has also done well in neighbouring Germany and Austria.
It is about to make its debut in Japan and Spain and several countries, including the United States and Britain, have already shown interest in the remake rights.
Film critic Christian Jungen told swissinfo that Late Bloomers, which focuses on a group of old ladies, became a surprise hit after its debut at the Locarno Film Festival in 2006.
"This film is about how life isn't finished at 50 or 60, that you can still have dreams and reach your goals at a mature age, and this touched the audience, especially older people and women," said Jungen, who is also a film scholar at Zurich University.
The film, which has been compared with the British production Calendar Girls, owes much of its success to its leading lady Stephanie Glaser.
Glaser, a well-known Swiss television actress, took on her first major film role to play Martha, an 80-year-old who has lost her zest for life since her husband's death.
Her friends in the small Emmental village of Trub rally round and help her realise her long-held dream of opening a lingerie shop.
However, not all the villagers are pleased at the news – not least Martha's son, Walter, who is the local vicar.
But before long, it is clear that the lingerie shop has not just helped Martha to bloom, but also her friends – with old courage being found and new relationships blossoming.
The film's gentle humour is also an appealing factor, says Jungen.
"It's making fun of the conservative Swiss people living in small villages in the countryside but it does it in such a way that people who see themselves on screen laugh about it without really realising," he told swissinfo.
Better than Vitus?
The question is whether Late Bloomers can do any better than last year's Swiss Oscar hopeful, Vitus, about a boy piano prodigy.
The film made the ten-strong shortlist for the Best Foreign Film, but did not make it to the final nominations.
"The producer of Late Bloomers, Alfi Sinniger, already won an Oscar in 1991 with Journey of Hope by [Swiss director] Xavier Koller, which at the time beat Cyrano de Bergerac with Gérard Depardieu, so he's experienced and he knows how to campaign in Los Angeles," explained Jungen.
"What is also important is that the film's distributor is Buena Vista International, the overseas distributor of the Disney studio."
Disney's involvement could help with lobbying for the film, should it reach the shortlist, said Jungen. However, it should not be forgotten that reaching this stage was notoriously difficult, added the critic.
For Jungen, Late Bloomers' nomination shows how Swiss film continues to flourish after reaching a low point in the 1990s. This and its popularity may be points in the film's favour.
"Late Bloomers stands for this new awakening of Swiss film," he said.
swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson
The 2008 Oscars will take place on February 24, 2008. Nominations will be made public on January 22, 2008.
Regular awards are presented in up to 25 categories. All voting for Academy Awards is conducted by secret ballot.
The Federal Culture Office is also supporting another production, Peter Entell's "Shake the Devil Off", in the Best Documentary Feature Oscar category.
Late Bloomers' director Bettina Oberli was born in 1972 in Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland. She studied film in Zurich and has worked in New York as well as in Switzerland.
Her debut film Im Nordwind won several awards and was in the running for the Swiss film prize in 2005.
At present she is helping to promote Late Bloomers internationally and is also working on the screenplay for Tannöd, which will be filmed in Germany next year.
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