Swiss Films, Visions du Réel Give Voice to the Discriminated at First Cannes Docs Swiss Showcase

According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, Switzerland is ranked third in Europe for its yearly output of documentaries, with more than 70 titles in 2023. On May 19, it will unveil four of its most promising features at the Swiss Cannes Docs Showcase.

The event is jointly organized by the national promotional agency Swiss Films, Visions du Réel —the country’s sole non-fiction film festival—and Cannes Docs.

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“It’s actually the very first Swiss Showcase of docs-in-progress ever at Cannes Docs!” said Pierre-Alexi Chevit, head of the sought-after doc industry event.

“We’ve been talking about it with Swiss Films for many years, and it’s now finally happening in the framework of Swiss Country of Honour at the Marché du Film this year,” he added.

“It is fabulous to have Visions du Réel as a key collaborator for this Showcase, as it is such a great festival, run by amazing people, and always bringing together such talented filmmakers and so many passionate industry professionals. I love going there every year (though it’s so close to Cannes!), and I very much enjoy moderating the feedback roundtables with the Visions du Réel–Pitching project-holders!”, said Chevit.

Making their debuts are four wide-ranging titles jointly selected by Swiss Films and Visions du Réel. “The Swiss doc panorama is, of course, representative of the various linguistic and cultural areas of the Confederation, so that makes it particularly diverse in form and content,” Chevit continues.

“If you add the country’s strong tradition of international co-productions, you end up with a very stimulating and multifaceted Swiss doc scene. We are proud of showcasing some of its current most exciting projects,” he said.

“Tale of Baba” 

Set in rural France, “Tale of Baba” is co-helmed by Matthias Joulaud and Lucien Roux, multi-prized at leading doc festivals such as IDFA and Grimstad for their joint-short graduation film “Ramboy,” also dedicated to farm work.

The film centers on the hard-of-hearing Didier, who works hard on an isolated farm, striving to reinvent his language and his exchanges to turn his handicap into a strength.

“We’re filming Didier in his daily life and at work, in an immersive way,” says Roux in a pre-recorded video. The main protagonist shares his phobia of medicine, his dream of becoming a breeder, and his hopes of meeting a life-long partner. As in “Ramboy,” the visionary filmmaking duo will use allegorical sequences “to make this film a place of expression.”

Through Didier’s special relationship with a young, hard-working couple, the film “weaves together a link between their reality and the recent revolts in the E.U. farming world, denouncing the enslavement of farmers for the benefit of a hyper-competitive, globalized food industry” Joulaud says.

Juliana Fanjul and Annick Bouissou are producing for Akka Films, Switzerland with Alexandre Cornu of Les Films du Tambour de Soie in France, with co-financing from broadcaster RTS.

Tale of Baba
Tale of Baba

“Road 190” 

Another promising filmmaking duo – Emilie Cornu and Charlotte Nastasi – is making its feature doc debut for Close Up Films founder Joëlle Bertossa, co-producer of the Oscar-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro.”

“Road 190” is the harrowing portrait of a death row inmate in Texas, U.S., and the infamous road that leads from his prison to the execution chamber.

“Texas is well-known for performing the most executions of prisoners in the U.S. and for its terrible prison conditions,” explain the co-directors, who are following the Black American death row inmate Mabry in the film. “We’ve made him the narrator to make him human again,” they stress.

Next to Mabry, we discover the lives of the locals on Road 190, who live off the major prison center—a fishmonger, a restaurant owner, a county sheriff and a former prison guard-turned-pastor.

The project, co-produced by Belgium’s Stenola Productions, started filming in April and is due for delivery in February 2025. Broadcasters RTF in Switzerland and RTBF in Belgium are co-financing.

“Songs of Sisterhood”

This doc feature is the sophomore work by Polish-born Hanna Nobis (“Polish Prayer”), recipient of a Zurich Film Award 2023. The film chronicles a group of Gen Zs in a polyamorous relationship as they survive the pandemic, navigate Poland’s conservative society, and strive for a better future for themselves, their peers, and the world. “It’s a story of love and friendship in three acts,” says the director who has followed Lu and friends for more than three years.

The project, flagged at the market by seasoned producer and sales agent Esther van Messel of First Hand Films, is due for delivery in November 2025.

Songs of Sisterhood
Songs of Sisterhood


Meanwhile “Helvécia” by Pablo Francischelli, a best script winner at the São Paulo Film Festival for “Seven Lives,” is a journey far away in time and in place, as it takes us to the former Swiss and Germany colony in Brazil of the same name, founded more than 200 years ago.” We follow a boy whose ancestors were taken by force from Switzerland to Brazil”, says the director, who plans to explore both the traces of his dark colonial heritage and the character’s chances to overcome it.

“It’s an important story to tell, which will show how economic powers continue to exploit precarious people today, but it’s also a positive example of the younger generation as they try to improve their lives,” adds Intermezzo Films’ Luc Peter who produces alongside Katia Monla. Filming started in January, with a delivery date set for 2025.

The four Swiss docs will vie for a string of awards to be handed out on May 21.


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