Solothurn, which on a cold, grey day is about as far removed as you can get from Hollywood, is hosting the movers and shakers of the Swiss film industry.This content was published on January 16, 2002 - 07:49
Regarded as a showcase for Swiss feature films and documentaries, the Solothurn film festival is much more than an opportunity for the public to attend the occasional première and for directors to compete for awards.
It also provides producers, distributors and other leading behind-the-scene players the chance to get together and exchange ideas, which usually have more to do with money than art.
This year's festival programme has been widened to include films from Québec, and among the guests is Natalie Barton, representing producers in the French-speaking Canadian province.
As well as being there to talk about the artistic merits of Québec-made movies, Barton is exchanging ideas with her Swiss counterparts about financing.
In the late 1980s, Québec pioneered a system of financing cultural - as opposed to commercial - productions through tax credits. These, with some support from the federal government, can account for up to 25 per cent of production costs - and it's all because of competition from the US film and television industry.
"The raison d'être of our cultural measures and investment in production at different government levels is because of our big neighbour," Barton told swissinfo.
"If we didn't have measures to ensure that there were Canadian productions on the airwaves at prime time, and to ensure that films were produced for the cinema and so on, we just wouldn't have any of our own."
Solothurn film festival director, Ivo Kummer, says he and others in the Swiss industry are looking forward to discussing public financing with their Canadian guests.
"There are similarities between Québec and Switzerland apart from their having roughly the same population of about seven million," he said, "so we'll be doing some talking."
Support for Swiss films
Annual public funding for Switzerland's cultural film output was recently increased by the Confederation and with contributions from cantons, other local authorities and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, it totals about SFr60 million. This is about the same as the financial support given at various government levels to the Québec film industry.
But before the festival ends on Sunday, it is cultural entertainment rather than funding which will be on the minds of the 30,000 or more people members of the public expected to attend screenings of some 250 films and videos.
Kummer says some surprises are in store, with many films - including competition entries - being screened for the first time in Switzerland. He singled out one documentary, which he said was of exceptional quality - but diplomatically refused to give its title.
One documentary which will almost certainly make an impact is "The Tube", directed by Peter Entell, a US filmmaker based since 1975 in Switzerland.
A self-confessed "tele-addict", Entell says the results - on film - of his three-year study of television-watching habits are disturbing. He told swissinfo that his investigation unearthed indications of television being a form of mass hypnosis, which left him with a story worthy of the "X-Files" TV series.
by Richard Dawson
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