The Quartz Awards Night isn’t known for being fun and festive. This year, it was even less so since it was virtual. Live from the RTS studios in Geneva, the mistress of the 2021 Swiss Cinema Awards ceremony, Mireille Jaton, faced three guests, three former winners, including the filmmaker Antoine Russbach, recipient last year of the Quartz best film for Those who work. All the nominees were in front of their computer screens, who in evening clothes, who in more casual clothes. No full-blown applause to greet the winners, no moving thank-you speeches in front of an audience of professionals in the profession.
The year 2020, it is not a scoop, was not good for the cinema. In Switzerland, attendance at theaters, which will have been banned from activities for nearly five months, has fallen by 65%. As for film releases, they fell by 43%, with a more marked drop for American productions, with only 56 new films. Against them, 51 Swiss feature films were screened, resulting in a record market share for indigenous cinema. However, in terms of fiction, faced with documentaries, which remain the strong point of the Swiss industry, there were few exciting proposals.
Six nominations, five awards
Two films nevertheless stood out: The Children of Platzspitz, by Pierre Monnard, and Little sister, by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond. Two films signed by French-speaking people but shot in German, as proof that dividing Swiss cinema according to its linguistic borders is an absurdity. Three years ago, it was also an German filmmaker, Bettina Oberli, who came to make a French-speaking film in the Jura, The Wind turns.
Logically, Little sister and The Children of Platzspitz were the favorites of these Quartz 2021s, with six and four nominations respectively. In the end, it was the film by Vaudoises Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond that triumphed, with five awards – best film, best screenplay, best supporting role for Marthe Keller, best photography for Filip Zumbrunn and best editing for Myriam Rachmuth. The two directors were the first surprises of this almost full box. It must be said that they had already succeeded in the film and screenplay double with The Little Room in 2011, and that Fribourgeois Pierre Monnard had for his part benefited from greater visibility.
Released at the beginning of the year in German-speaking Switzerland and during the summer in French-speaking Switzerland, The Children of Platzspitz attracted over 330,000 spectators; unveiled in September, when the Covid-19 contamination was on the rise and a second closure of the rooms became inevitable, Little sister only recorded 13,000 entries. The 450 voters of the Swiss Film Academy provide the film with a beautiful showcase which, we hope, will be able to experience a second life in video on demand. And to think that its world premiere took place in a full hall, during the Berlinale 2020, the last major festival to have taken place before the pandemic.
No better actor
Sarah Spale’s stunning performance as a drug addict mother in The Children of Platzspitz, on the other hand, unsurprisingly won the Quartz for best female interpretation. What about men? No winner: the number of eligible actors being less than six, i.e. the limit set by the Federal Office of Culture to guarantee members of the Academy a diversity of choice, this category has been exceptionally deleted . A sign, too, that fiction cinema is finally offering more and more strong female characters. Excellent in Little sister, Lars Eidinger could also not be appointed, because of German nationality, like in 2020 the Belgian Olivier Gourmet, main role of Those who work. A point of the regulation that should perhaps be relaxed, when we know that Jean Dujardin or Marion Cotillard received an Oscar, while Kristen Stewart won a Caesar. Swiss cinema would have everything to gain from being able to reward international actors.
Interview with Milo Rau:
The Quartz for Best Documentary, finally, returned to Milo Rau for his formidable New Gospel, filmed in southern Italy, in Basilicata, and which virtuously interweaves the figure of Christ and the plight of migrants, while paying homage to Pasolini. Already screened as part of the online editions of the Journées de Solothurn and the FIFDH in Geneva, the film will be available in video on demand from Wednesday March 31, via its official website. A special session, in collaboration with The weather, is also organized on Monday March 29 at 8:15 p.m., on the platform Film streaming. It will be followed by a live chat with the director.