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A Swiss treat of a different kind

The films are here for a very specific purpose. Each one of them addresses the question of migration ? geographical, cultural and emotional, says Saibal Chatterjee.
By Saibal Chatterjee | PTI, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2003 04:56 PM IST

The package of entries from Switzerland on view at the ongoing 34th International Film Festival of India is unusual on two significant counts. One, no 'Country Focus' ever organized at the IFFI has been quite this large. And two, these films do not necessarily represent the best of contemporary Swiss cinema; they are only bound by a common theme.  

So, what really is the thinking behind the composition of 'Blurring Boundaries'? Says art historian Alexandra Schneider, who put the package together under the aegis of the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia: "Some better Swiss films might have been made in recent times, but the films in this selection are here for a very specific purpose. Each one of them addresses the question of migration and the constant human endeavour to blur boundaries – geographical, cultural and emotional."

Blurring Boundaries consists of five long feature films, four short feature films, five documentaries and 15 animated cartoons, the earliest of which, Claude Luyet’s Ricochet, was made in 1973. The long features films, which constitute the centerpiece of the package, provide a fair idea of the direction that Swiss "migration" films have taken in the past three years. In Les Petites Couleurs (A Little Colour), a hairdresser whose husband beats her ends up in a rundown motel frequented by truck drivers and travelling salesmen. She discovers a new life in unfamiliar surroundings.

In Azzurro  (Azure), an Italian employee of a Swiss company returns to Switzerland to seek financial assistance from his former boss for the treatment of his seven-year-old grandchild, who is blind. What is intended to be a 48-hour trip turns into a voyage that neither grandfather nor granddaughter could ever have dreamt of.

The protagonist of the gentle love story, Brucio Nel Vento (Burning in the Wind), is Tobias, who works seasonally in a watch-making factory after fleeing to Italian-speaking Switzerland from Eastern Europe. His waking hours are consumed by what at first seems like a futile wait: he expects a woman he has created in his imagination to join him in Switzerland. A woman from his past does indeed arrive and his life changes…

Schneider puts these impulses in contemporary Swiss filmmaking in perspective: "Swiss filmmakers have regularly taken up the topic of migration. In the past few years in particular, several migration films have been released. They differ from earlier works on this subject insofar as they do not take the "social worker" perspective and are not primarily intended to inform, but follow an emotional approach to the topic. Brucio Nel Vento as well as Azzurro serve as examples."

The two other long feature films that make up Blurring Boundaries revolve around journeys of a different kind. In Stille Liebe (Secret Love), a deaf nun, Antonia, stumbles upon an exciting new world when, on her daily journey by train to the convent in the city, she encounters a man, Mikas, who is also deaf. The two individuals are far removed from each other temperamentally despite their common disability and the relationship that develops between Antonia and Mikas alters her world forever.

Utopia Blues is the story of a young man, Rafael, who seeks freedom through the means of his band. But how much freedom does society permit. Rafael learns some truth of life at his own expense. 

The Blurring Boundaries package, which represents all three linguistic regions of Switzerland, also includes some remarkable short features. In Das Engadiner Wunder (The Miracle from Engadin), two dead people, in two parallel tracks, recount the last days of their lives. Hotel Belgrad homes in on a couple making love – she lives in Switzerland, he in Belgrade. The two seek to rebuild what has been destroyed by war.

The Swiss treat isn’t meant only for audiences in Delhi. It travels all around the country (Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Trivandrum) over the next two and a half months.

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