Stars turn out for revamped Swiss Oscar ceremony

Copyright: © Jérôme Prébois

Hot on the heels of the Academy Awards in the United States comes Switzerland's equivalent – the Swiss Film Prize.

This content was published on March 7, 2009 minutes

With a new location for the ceremony, more stars and more public exposure, the organisers are hoping for a feast of glamour and emotions on Saturday night.

The Swiss Film Prize QUARTZ will be for the first time presented at a televised gala event in Lucerne's Jean Novel-designed Culture and Congress Centre.

This represents a departure for awards, which were previously celebrated more modestly, and behind closed doors, on the sidelines of the Solothurn Film Festival in January.

"There will be more glamour, the ceremony is bigger, it's in a beautiful place and there will be celebrities giving the laudations," said Natalia Guecheva of Swiss Films, the country's film promotion arm and one of the organisers.

Among the stars expected are Swiss director Fredi Murer, responsible for 2006 Oscar-nominated film Vitus, and French composer Maurice Jarre, who will present the new Best Film Score prize. Around 1,300 guests should attend.

One of a kind

Also involved in the organisation is the Federal Culture Office, the local movie industry's largest sponsor. Completing the line-up is newcomer the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo's parent company, which will be transmitting excerpts of the gala on three national channels.

"It's a small Swiss Oscars, there is no other film prize generally for the whole of Switzerland," Guecheva told swissinfo.

Since last year Switzerland also has a Swiss Film Academy, based on the United States' industry-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which chooses the Oscars.

As this is a transition year, the Swiss academy won't be deciding the winners, but they did help select the nominations.

A jury, which includes Bond baddie Anatole Taubman and renowned film producer Ruth Waldburger, will decide who wins one of the ten categories. In the next years it is hoped that the academy will take on the role.

Tips for the top

Favourites for the top prizes have already emerged, among them Home, by Geneva filmmaker Ursula Meier and starring French actress Isabelle Huppert, in the Best Fiction Film category.

"This was shown at Cannes in the Critics' Week last year and was a big success in French-speaking Switzerland," said Christian Jungen, a critic at several newspapers and a film scholar.

"Then you have a very good movie in the documentary category, La Forteresse, which tells of every day life in an asylum centre and there is also No More Smoke Signals about a radio station belonging to Native Americans, which won the humanitarian award at Solothurn."

However, he warned that the fact there was no hit film like My Name is Eugen or Late Bloomers among the nominations might lessen public appeal.

"You see this at the Oscars, when you don't have big films, like, for example, this year The Dark Knight, the attention will go down," Jungen told swissinfo.

"The best years in terms of ratings for the Academy Awards were when Titanic was nominated or later on, the Lord of the Rings trilogy."

Oscars' influence

For Guecheva, the Swiss Film Prize coming so close to the premier Oscars event – postulated by some in the industry as potentially problematic - is not an issue.

She hoped that people had been following Reto Caffi, whose Auf der Strecke (On the Line) was a contender for an Oscar for Best Short Live Action Film in Los Angeles on February 22.

Caffi will be on hand to help give out the awards on Saturday night in Lucerne.

Guecheva said there might be some Oscar-style speeches on the night. "I already saw some emotions at the nominations night in Solothurn," she said. "It's a reward for people's work to be chosen from so many Swiss films, as there was a lot of competition in some categories.

"I hope people will be excited about receiving this prize – showing some emotions - and that winning this award will help them in their further plans and projects."

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Swiss film prize

The event was held on the evening of March 7 in Lucerne. It was organised by the SBC, the Federal Culture Office and Swiss Films.

It was founded in 1998, with three categories and has at times struggled to gain public and industry recognition.

The nominations, announced at the Solothurn Film Festival on January 23, carry with them a cash prize. The prize consists of a crystal-styled trophy, but no funding.

The SBC held a Swiss film night on three domestic channels, with excerpts of the ceremony, reports from the red carpet and showings of Swiss films.

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Winners 2009

Best Fiction Film: Home by Ursula Meier
Best Documentary Film: No More Smoke Signals by Fanny Bräuning
Best Short Film: Un día y nada by Lorenz Merz
Best Animation Film: Tôt ou tard by Jadwiga Kowalska
Best Screenplay: Home by Ursula Meier
Best Actress: Céline Bolomey in Du bruit dans la tête
Best Actor: Dominique Jann in Luftbusiness
Best Emerging Actor or Actress: Kacey Mottet in Home
Best Film Score: Marcel Vaid for Zara
Special Jury Prize: Danilo Catti for Gìu le mani

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