On the eve of the Locarno Film Festival Switzerland’s daily newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) has reported that Alain Berset wants the government to champion more “innovative” fare, sparking concern over the future of local mainstream product.

Berset, a self-confessed James Bond fan who has been in office since the beginning of 2012, is reportedly looking to “increasingly support innovative, original productions” and allocate “less to commercial movies geared to a large audience.”

However NZZ said the Social Democrat politician’s plans were met with disbelief by members of the opposition parties. “This approach is completely amiss,”  SVP deputy Christoph Mörgeli said, declaring that there would “soon be more filmmakers in Switzerland than people who want to see their works.” He continued: “We shouldn’t fund mediocrity that nobody wants to see, but rather extraordinary films which also have a potential with the audience.“

Meanwhile, National Councillor Filippo Leutenegger of the FDP said: that “artistic films are all very well, but subsidies cannot be justified in the long term without an audience.” He added that the Swiss film industry “should be aiming for a 10% market share.”  Current market share for local product is 4.1%.

At the same time, Berset’s party colleague Matthias Aebischer warned in the ensuing debate over Berset’s policy shift that one “shouldn’t play off market share against quality. It would be better basically to invest more money in film funding.”

Berset’s ideas have also found favour with Kaspar Kasics, president of the Association For Film Directing And Script in Switzerland. “If we want to become important again internationally, we need original films with strong signatures,“ Kasics declared, stressing that it would be “wrong given the limited means [the Swiss national government invests around CHF 50m in film funding each year] to shower those people with money who have their sights on the market with mainstream films.”

Not unexpectedly director Michael Steiner, whose films have included such box-office successes as Mein Name Ist Eugen, Grounding and Sennentuntschi, was critical of Berset’s plans: “If the Federation doesn’t support any more commercial films, this means that we won’t have any more successful dialect films,” he told NZZ. “The result would be that there aren’t any more films like Sennentuntschi or Der Verdingbub.”

Sennentuntschi attracted almost 150,000 admissions when Disney released it in 2010, while Markus Imboden’s Der Verdingbub has posted 236,759 admissions since Ascot Elite debuted the drama last November.

Steiner’s latest film, the horror comedy Das Missen Massaker, will screen on Locarno’s Piazza Grande on Aug 10 after the presentation of a Pardo Alla Carriera to the film’s producer Peter-Christian Fueter.

The Locarno Film Festival is set to run from Aug 1-11.