Changes are afoot in Swiss cinema to reorganize the national film funding system from 2012.Also, Nyon festival announces changes.

Switzerland’s Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter, who is also responsible for cultural policy, visited the Locarno Film Festival at the weekend and gave his first public reaction to an evaluation report which had been commissioned by the Federal Office for Culture (BAK) to evaluate whether the principles of “quality, diversity and popularity” had been achieved by the film funding programme between 2006 and 2010.

Speaking at the traditional reception at Monte Verita in Ascona, Burkhalter said that the present funding system would continue to operate until the end of 2011 to allow “time to concretise the dream of the future of Swiss cinema.” He suggested that Switzerland’s National Fund could serve as a model for a future film funding structure: “the model has two strengths – independence and quality.”

However, he stressed that “the Confederation (Bund) is neither playing the lead role, nor serving as the director. The filmmakers are the lead characters.”

The 150-page evaluation of the BAK’s selective film funding system had recommended a clear separation of the strategic film policy decision-making  — as administered by BAK’s film division — from the actual processing of the film funding applications by the creation of a new funding body.

Burkhalter’s comments came as former film section chief Marc Wehrlin started work this month as a so-called “facilitator” to promote a more constructive dialogue between BAK and the various players of the Swiss film industry on their expectations for a national film funding system from 2012.

Relations between the national film body and large sections of the local film industry had reached a low point during the tenure of Wehrlin’s successor at the film section Nicolas Bideau who announced earlier this year that he was stepping down this autumn after five years in the post.

While Bideau had arguably focused too much on films with supposed commercial potential, albeit with little success, Burkhalter stated in an interview with Sonntag at the weekend: “I don’t want to measure the success of films only by the cinema admissions. There are films which simply want to stress a social important issue. That is also a success.”

Meanwhile, Locarno’s first weekend also the announcement of new changes at one of Switzerland’s other major international film festivals, Nyon’s Visions du Réel International Film Festival.

The next edition (April 7-13, 2011) will be the first under the management of the new artistic director Luciano Barisone who succeeds Jean Perret. 

Following a motto of “continuity and innovation”, Barisone explained in Locarno that one of his first steps will be to reduce the number of films in the festival programme in order “to facilitate a more intense dialogue between the audience and the invited filmmakers”.

He also plans to introduce a thematic retrospective – “Port franc” – where a filmmaker’s work would be seen from the perspective of artists from other disciplines such as painters, photographers, philosophers and writers.

Moreover, Barisone introduced German producer Gudula Meinzolt as the new head of the Doc Outlook – International Market which includes market screenings and a co-production market. A new feature will be the Think Doc Tank addressing burning issues on the contemporary production of  documentary images.

Barisone said that, furthermore, he would be aiming for a year-round programme of showing documentaries at venues in the Nyon region as well as at key cities in Switzerland (Lausanne, Geneva, Berne, Zurich, Basle and Lugano) outside of the festival week.