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Swiss democracy - not just cartoon characters

The Swiss parliament in a cartoon by Akinoro Oishi.

(www.maisimbundeshuss.ch)

The hit documentary film Mais im Bundeshuus (Corn in Parliament) has been turned into a DVD using cartoon animations to explain how Swiss institutions work.

The original DVD of Jean-Stéphane Bron's unusually successful documentary is already being used as an educational tool to promote global democracy.

The film has provided an object lesson in how decisions are really taken in the Swiss parliament, with its lobby groups, power struggles and secret goings-on.

Shot in a tense and original style, combining classical political documentary with elements of a political thriller or film noir, it examines the work of a parliamentary committee appointed to draft legislation on genetic engineering.

Thanks to its DVD format, Jean-Stéphane Bron’s Corn in Parliament is already serving a further purpose as a tool for promoting democracy, with plans to show it to several national parliaments worldwide.

More than a rehash

A second DVD containing several additional features will now supersede the original "home-made" version, issued last December.

These include 14 cartoon films, lasting 40 minutes in total, which tackle seven different topics: the rule of law, parliament, parliamentary committees, political parties, lobby groups, genetic engineering and documentary film-making.

Director Bron says: "From the outset, we wanted to produce a DVD which was not just a rehash of the film, but a product of real artistic value."

The images were created by the Japanese graphic artist Akinori Oishi and by two young Swiss artists, Nicolas Party and Denis Savery.

Author and journalist Christophe Gallaz wrote the scripts.

Educational project

Producer Thierry Spicher says: "Bron's documentary is an outstanding teaching aid. It gives a clear insight into many of the things that go on in politics.

"We decided we should not be content with half measures, but should use the film as a launch pad for a wider-ranging project."

The educational thrust of the project is also evident in the way the cartoon animations have been dubbed into seven languages: Switzerland's three national languages, English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.

The project team used dubbing rather than subtitles so that even illiterate viewers would be able to understand.

The project was funded by the Swiss foreign ministry and by Presence Switzerland, an organisation set up to promote Switzerland abroad.

The idea was to make the DVD available to all citizens, in particular school children and immigrants, and to Swiss embassies abroad.

"Negociations.ch"

In addition to the "more wide-ranging" project mentioned by Thierry Spicher, there are also plans to develop a third tool: a website devoted to the topic of negotiation.

Christophe Guignard of fabric.ch, the electronic architecture studio appointed to develop the project, explains: "The aim is to give users the opportunity to negotiate on a given issue in a clear-headed way.

"We want to create a virtual space in which negotiations can be conducted and, at the same time, try to get people to think about the process of negotiation itself."

For the time being the www.negotiations.ch website is still in its infancy, until the SFr75,000 needed to fund it can be raised.

swissinfo, Daniele Mariani

Key facts

Corn in Parliament was released in 2003.
Screened in Swiss cinemas, it has been seen by more than 100,000 people, including 15,000 school pupils.
The documentary has been entered for at least 15 film festivals, and has already been shown to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

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In brief

The film was first issued in DVD format in early 2004.

Additional features include 14 cartoon animations presenting different aspects of Swiss democracy.

The project organisers are also planning a website devoted to the topic of negotiation.

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