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New film version of "Heidi" to be screened at Berlin festival

Paolo Villaggio and Cornelia Gröschel in a scene from "Heidi" (picture: Vega Film AG)

For the first time in several years a Swiss production is entered for the children's section of this year's Berlin film festival - and its subject matter could hardly be more Swiss.

The film is a new screen version of Johanna Spyri's classic tale, "Heidi", and is directed by Markus Imboden. The mountain scenes were shot on location near Scuol in Graubünden, the canton where Heidi stays with her grandfather after the death of her mother.

Although it is an official Swiss entry, "Heidi" is in fact internationally financed to the tune of SFr6.5 million ($4 million) and has a French as well as a Swiss-German version. It is subtitled in German and English and the title role is played by a young German actress, Cornelia Gröschel.

The Berlin festival, which gets underway this week, was chosen by the film's producers for its world première.

One of the organisations which promotes and coordinates filmmaking activities in Switzerland is the Swiss Film Centre. Its director, Micha Schiwow, told swissinfo that he was delighted with the strong Swiss presence this year in Berlin. "It's the first time we have films in all the festival sections," he said.

Among them are "Lightmaker" directed by Dieter Meier. This fantasy story is about a young violinist from New York who is lured into the underground realm of King Osso - played by Rod Steiger - and can only save it from destruction by playing music to create light and life.

"Lightmaker", originally filmed in English, will also be given its first public screening at the festival.

Other Swiss films include "David Weiser", a Polish-German co-production directed by Wojciech Marczewski, "Blue End" by Kaspar Kasics and "Do It", a documentary made by Sabine Gisiger and Marcel Zwingli.

The director of the 12-day Berlin festival is a Swiss, Moritz de Hadeln, who is retiring from the post after 23 years. To mark his departure, he has organised a special programme of 23 full-length films - a personal choice which includes movies based on fact and with controversial themes.

Several movie stars are expected to attend de Hadeln's last festival. Among them are Juliette Binoche, Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, Sean Connery and Kirk Douglas.

by Richard Dawson


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