Local films at box office led by The Foster Boy.

Switzerland’s film industry is in rude health. Ticket sales increased year-on-year in 2011 and production volume was high at 26. The positive trends look set to continue.

“This has been a great year for Swiss cinema,” confirms Francine Brucher of promotion agency Swiss Films.

“It started at the Berlinale where we had three films in official selection. Ursula Meier’s competition entry Sister was the most successful, winning the Silver Bear, doing well at the Swiss box office and selling to 50 countries. But we have also had films at Cannes, Venice and Toronto”.

Swiss films are making just as big an impact at home as abroad. Markus Imboden’s drama The Foster Boy, released in November 2011, but playing deep into 2012, has been the most successful local film in five years after selling more than 235,000 tickets.

The last 12 months have also seen Switzerland’s first 3D film in the shape of Markus Welter’s horror One Way Trip 3D. The release took advantage of the rapidly growing digital screen presence in Switzerland, which has mushroomed from 55 screens two years ago to more than six times that number today. 

However, it’s not all rosy, cautions Brucher: “Like everywhere in Europe, Switzerland may seem like a paradise from the outside, but in reality it’s not that easy to find financing for films. The private money in Switzerland usually goes to major US films shooting in Europe,” she says. “It’s a different matter when it comes to art house and auteur Swiss films,” she explains.

Swiss Films has had to fight to maintain state subsidies for local industry. This year it won a key battle to maintain export subsidies, for example, which were suspended in 2011 due to cutbacks.

“Film festivals continue to be of key importance for the launch of Swiss films,” says Brucher. “Locarno is of course very important, but, for distributors, the Zurich Film Festival can become increasingly important too, providing they use it effectively”.

Among the Swiss world premieres at this year’s festival are Emmanuelle Antille’s international competition entry Avanti, Daniel Young’s documentary Paul Bowles: The Cage Door is always open and Erich Langjah’s documentary Mein Erster Berg.