Film and Cinema
Text of the Report
Additions and Discussion
Download: Report of the expert group (English text as PDF file)
Download: Original report of the expert group (PDF)
The group of experts examined the issue of cultural diversity as a complex system where all elements discussed are representing factors that contribute to the diversity of cultural expressions: to the variety of production and offer on the one hand, to the physical as well as intellectual accessibility on the other (appreciation based on education).
The film sector is particularly important at the Federal level, because the Confederation has an explicit constitutional mandate in the Film Act “to promote the diversity and quality of the films on offer and the creation of films and to aid the development of film culture”.
The Digitalisation of cinema
The impending digitalisation of cinema projections offers interesting perspectives but also significant dangers: with satellite transmission it could offer access to any film in any cinema in the world at any time. Cinemas on the periphery may thus not only profit optimally from the launch of major film productions but also by showing a diverse range of films for a dedicated audience.
For many small and rural cinemas, however, digital conversion will not be possible without financial support from public sources. The exorbitant cost of digital projection equipment (with questionable durability, higher service costs and necessary modifications) calls for an innovative policy to prevent the required investments leading to dependency in programming.
- To ensure continuing cultural diversity in the films on offer, as many cinemas as possible should be initiated into the digital age.
- To enable small arthouse and rural cinemas to equip themselves with suitable screen projection technology (2k), funding schemes and supportive measures should be examined. A public debate among the professionals to discuss all the existing models, including public corporations and cooperatives, is urgently needed before making a decision.
- The support of cinemas should follow quality standards, both in the diversity of their programmes and in the technical projection and sound quality.
- A model for financing the conversion to digital projection must be directly negotiated between cinemas and distributors. Cinemas have to maintain their freedom in the choice of films.
- Parliamentary initiatives at the federal level are urgently required to ensure that the Confederation is committed to rapid action with respect to this development of the cinema industry.
Cinema programmes and distribution
The current focus of support for marketable Swiss films is a hindrance to diversity: it suffocates films from countries with “small” cinema productions. The Studio cinemas are overloaded with art-house mainstream productions and productions with distribution subsidies, thus pushing the fragile ones over the edge. All too few of the many important films of the international production that appear either in the Locarno or the Nyon festivals can be seen on Swiss screens – even in specialist/art-house cinemas.
It is not enough that one can point to hundreds of titles that are seen only briefly in the urban centres such as Zurich or Geneva, one must also be able to see commercially less successful, but artistically or culturally important films, nationwide.
- The diversity of the offer in rural areas must be vigorously strengthened (especially in combination with the conversion to digital projection).
- Cinema subsidies should be so implemented that a variety of films from around the world should be promoted effectively in all locations. The screening of quality films should be supported regardless of their share of the programme on a screen or at a single cinema. The programme of the Federal office of Culture promoting diversity is insufficient.
- In particular the support of subtitling should be considered: nationwide diversity presupposes the availability of linguistic versions.
- The repertoire of historical Swiss films must continue to be decentralised and be available throughout the country, at least in important locations.
- The promotion of cinema venues must depend on specific qualitative merits. The assessment criteria should be developed under the guidance of a specialist commission with continual evaluation and development.
- The creation of a specific label for access to cultural film funding should be considered.
- A significant reduction of cinema prices (the savings from digital projection) could be used to support diversity in film programming.
Commercial and non-commercial cinema
A prerequisite to perceive and foster the diversity of cinematic creativity, in addition to a geographically widespread cinematic landscape – and its economic prosperity – is non-profit screening. Non-profit cinemas (repertory cinemas), film clubs, as well as film-show initiatives in cultural and youth centres, religious institutions or schools, have always been a preparatory path for film-makers and traditions that later had commercial success. The federal film promotion and other stakeholders have, however, pushed film culture and diversity into the background, using economic arguments.
- The funding policy needs to be restructured in favour of cultural diversity.
- Cultural support has to earn its name and give the word “culture” first priority. Cultural film activities outside commercial cinema that ensure a more intensive perception, an intensive dialogue with the public and programme variety should be promoted.
- The public sector must recognize the potential of non-profit film organisations and support their networks (such as Cinélibre) with the necessary financial resources in order to strengthen their cooperation and enable further initiatives. Thus, and thanks to a structured and strategic discourse with respect to film policy of the cultural film players, the funds would be allocated more effectively.
- Initiatives that circulate films brought into Switzerland thanks to international film festivals, in a national or regional context should be supported (like Films du Sud or Black Movie) as well as initiatives like Roadmovie or the former Selection Show of the Solothurn Festival.
- Those activities should be explicitly funded when they support the film and film education initiatives in schools and for young people.
- Up-to-date initiatives should be developed, examined, appropriately financed and implemented to enable the access of the public to the diverse repertoire of historical films.
- A network of projection locations should be established where archived films could be regularly shown. Strategies should be developed so that the most important works from film history stored in film archives should remain available to the public. These activities must be placed high on the agenda in the support of such venues.
Presence and accessibility of films from Africa, Asia and Latin America
Compared to other European countries there is a surprising number of non-European films that do not originate from North America being screened in Swiss cinemas, mainly thanks to small, dedicated film distributors and the trigon-film distribution that is subsidized by the SDC (Swiss Development Cooperation Agency). In general, however, the admission numbers, especially outside the centres, are rather modest. Of the approximately 80 films that were shown at the Fribourg Film Festival in 2009, only the main winner found a distributor in Switzerland.
On television, the situation is different; every day we are confronted with images from the South but they are mainly from a European perspective and the distribution is decided by western agencies and television stations. Many events that are important as such and project a positive image beyond the misery, hardly ever find their way into our TV programmes.
- The Confederation should provide adequate support for all distributors that programme non-European films to the extent that makes good advertising for the film possible.
- It should be required of federally-funded cinema operators that they screen a certain proportion of films from Africa, Asia and Latin America. These films should be attractively
- programmed and not be replaced within one week. This way, they can benefit from mouth-to-mouth propaganda and journalistic reflection.
- The specific situation of small cinemas should be taken into consideration regarding this aspect.
- Institutions that distribute films from Africa, Asia and Latin America for education and classroom viewing and not for cinema showings, should also be supported by the Confederation.
- Festivals that offer a programme of cultural diversity and a majority of films from Africa, Asia and Latin America, should be actively supported by the Confederation.
- A coordinated policy on subsiding cultural diversity in films should be formulated by the participating Federal offices. These subsidies should be awarded to those festivals evaluated as offering true cultural diversity and not judged by the number of admissions.
- The financial support of the international film festivals should include the obligation to show a specific proportion of films from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
- The self-determined pressure of television quota should be abolished regarding films from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the best slots made available for these films. There should be no market constraint on the existing documentary film broadcasting slots.
- More weight should be given to the obligation of cultural education by reinforcing the appropriate departments.
- Swiss Television should participate financially in international (non-European) productions, for example, films that are supported by the Swiss fund visions sud est.
It is essential to cultivate the senses, as well as having experiences in film history and the current aesthetic debates in order to be fully aware of, appreciate and productively process the existing diversity of filmic expressions. It is also about fostering in students an interest in other cultures, arousing their curiosity and reinforcing their sense of responsibility as members of civil society.
- In our curricula, there is still a lack of mandatory learning objectives and standards as well as attractive teaching materials for the competent and constructive promotion of visual and media education at all school levels.
- In all curricula, from kindergarten through to secondary education, mandatory standards should be formulated for film education and the constructive promotion of visual communication.
- At higher levels of study, the skills in visual communication should be given a weight equivalent to languages and mathematics.
- In the basic training in colleges of education, skills in the field of visual communication need to be actively promoted and assessed. Such mandatory courses and further education programmes should also be offered by these colleges to qualified teachers.
- A reserve of good teaching material for film education and the promotion of skills in the field of visual communication should be prepared and propagated.
- Educative visits to film festivals and accompanying film studies should be encouraged; the results should be evaluated and these projects intensified, if considered worthwhile.
- Education in sustainable development and thus global learning should be included in the mandatory curricula. Above all, it should arouse the interest of students in other cultures, guide them towards thinking in terms of networks and strengthen their sense of responsibility as members of civil society.
- Television must take part in this educational campaign.
Film Writing and Publications
Film writing, especially in its most popular form of criticism (critiques) or reviews, presents film as an art. Without this echo in newspapers and magazines, on the television and radio – and increasingly in recent years on the Internet – many films, especially those targeting a smaller audience, sophisticated works or those from lesser-known regions, would remain unnoticed by the general public.
Today, there is no longer a daily newspaper in Switzerland with a full-time film editor. The vast majority of the reviews are written by independents, untrained, with no knowledge of film history and whose fees do not ensure survival but are simply a “sideline” often supplementing the main source of their income. The result is a loss of professionalism – not to speak of the restricted diversity of values and interpretation.
The decline of professional film criticism, (with a viable income and appropriate status) has destabilised the whole field of film publication. Such a specialist writer who has no platform where he is able to propound and pass on his knowledge, soon loses his skill and this has led to the lack of reputable Swiss voices that could reflect our creativity internationally.
Film critics and the film press are vital for encouraging diversity in film culture – for the public as well as for film-makers. Subsidized media and those financed by license fees must offer quality film journalism beyond the simple announcement of events.
- Given the overall economic and structural media crisis, the cultural public-service of the media must be addressed by an overall concept.
- Awareness must be raised about the importance of free cultural reporting and professional film criticism as a prerequisite for diverse film culture.
- Swiss film periodicals must be supported with commitment and especially spread among the adolescent reading public (subscriptions).
- Measures are necessary to compensate for the increasing failure of the daily press, and alternative cooperative projects should be taken into consideration to guarantee nation-wide access to a diversity of films as well as quality discussion. Editors also require good working conditions, financially speaking as well. A shift of professional criticism to the blogosphere is not a solution.
- With regard to the impending disappearance of specialist criticism in small newspapers, cooperative manuscript services (such as the Swiss newspaper supplement service Schweizer Feuilleton-Dienst) should be developed. Of course, it is necessary to clarify which projects are useful for the interested public being able to perceive the variety of offer and discovering new films, namely new combinations of print and online information services.
- Press subsidies should be allocated according to qualitative criteria, while the working conditions of media employees should be protected by minimum standards to allow them to maintain their independence.
- Local radio and television, like the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG, should contribute to the public service, to the presence of diversity and discussion.
Diversity of production and forms
Many films that become part of film history for aesthetic or political reasons, because they are in opposition to the current social and artistic norms and therefore are in the focus of debate in Locarno or Nyon, seldom reach our cinemas and certainly not cinemas outside the so-called main urban centres. Even our television does little to access, disseminate and discuss such scarcely marketable films.
If our film makers do not have the opportunity to see the global diversity in innovative film-making and do not discuss the variety of issues in such films, this will, of necessity, lead to a reduced field of vision, to isolation from international movements and their debates, and thus to conformism. To provide a contrary dynamic, the situation requires the encouragement and promotion of original and courageous filmmakers and a lively exchange of ideas among creative people.
Under these circumstances, today’s promotion of the presence of Swiss films in our cinemas is a double-edged sword: although it sometimes helps fragile films to obtain a hoped-for prolongation it also displaces foreign films whose screening is equally important for our film culture and our cinema.
- Support should be focused on the production, distribution and accessibility of a wide variety of film forms and genres.
- The support of production must be fostering innovative film authors and especially the continuity of their work.
- Experimental forms and fragile genres should be supported with commitment.
- Exchange programmes, fellowships for film makers and the use of studios abroad should be encouraged.
- The quality discourse among filmmakers and the continued aesthetical education should be encouraged.
- The positions in the film section of the FOC should be filled by professionally trained persons who are experienced in cultural policy making and anchored in cultural life.
Statistics, monitoring, involvement of civil society
The preparation of all the experts’ contributions was hampered by a lack of statistics on which a cultural analysis and a funding policy debate could be based. Only for the film sector some statistical production data are available, but market figures do not reflect the real cultural process. The Cultural Promotion Act provides a basis for cultural statistics (Article 27 CPA) that are vital for monitoring the development in the field of cultural diversity and the public debate on the implementation of the Convention.
The group of experts recommends:
- Statistics and analysis should not primarily serve economic considerations, but also cover cultural policy aspects and make reliable statements about film-cultural activities. The existing gaps in film activities outside commercial cinema must be filled. Qualitative information is needed in addition to quantitative data.
- The Confederation must be responsible (together with professional bodies) for the monitoring of the digital roll-out in order to duly adapt structures and legal regulations, if possible proactively.
- As has been requested for years by culture professionals, a Cultural Council needs to be created to advise the Ministry and the Federal Council on all cultural matters.
- A consultative body should be created according to Article 11 of the Convention to ensure the effective participation of civil society in implementing the Convention.
- An Observatory run by civil society should be created to:
- monitor the development of cultural life, especially of cultural diversity;
- determine which areas of cultural life especially need promoting, then prepare and publish studies on the effectiveness of activities supporting cultural diversity;
- serve as a permanent dialogue partner of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office in the development of its indicators and its strategies in the cultural sector;
- advise the Confederation, regarding the policy for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity and to supply information to the Council every four years in order to make the report to UNESCO (under Article 9, paragraph A of the Convention).
- The Observatory must be provided with adequate staffing and resource.
- A position should be established in the Office of Culture to manage the link between the Observatory, the consultative body, the other players and the authorities.
- The audience research of the SRG and the research from OFCOM must contribute to the assessment of quality, demonstrate the diversity and allow effective control of its public-service offers. (e.g. to optimize the effective reach of the cultural programmes, especially for the youth).
- The Federal Office for Culture should be charged with reviewing all operations and projects in all areas (from social policy to fiscal policy) with respect to their cultural compatibility.
Original text: German
Hansjörg Beck. Manager of the cinema venues in Wohlen, Liestal, Reinach, Gstaad; Member of the Digital Cinema Working Group of the Swiss film industry. firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Gassmann. Ethnologist. Associate of the service “Films for one world”; Foundation for Education and Development. email@example.com
Mathias Knauer (Commissioner). Musicologist, filmmaker and author. Committee Member of the Swiss Coalition for Cultural Diversity. firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert M. Richter. Film critic and festival consultant. Secretary General of Cinélibre (Swiss Association of Film Societies and Nonprofit Cinemas). email@example.com
Nina Scheu. Journalist. Committee Member of the Swiss Association of Film Journalists (SVFJ/ASJC). firstname.lastname@example.org
Heinz Urben. Media pedagogue. Co-director “Cinema culture at school” and member of the Organizing Committee of the Solothurn Film Festival. email@example.com