Switzerland, Mexico Co-pro Pre-Accord
Courtesy: FICG/Bernardo De Niz

Border issues a red-hot topic in both countries

GUADALAJARA – Underscoring the realignment of filmmaking powers in an age of globalization, Mexico’s Imcine Film Institute and Switzerland’s Federal Office of Culture signed Friday at the Guadalajara Fest a letter of intentions to seal a bilateral film co-production treaty.

Switzerland figures this year as the Guest Country of Honor at Guadalajara, which runs March 4-13.

Mexico and Switzerland may seem strange bedfellows. That strangeness may be disappearing, however. An inveterate co-producer given its size, Switzerland naturally looks towards France and Germany as its partners of first choice, given its languages. Yet it is not so easy to co-produce with France as it was until recently. “Switzerland had developed co-productions in the context of Europe. Fortunately that strategy is now changing,” said Imcine director general Jorge Sanchez.

“This is a declaration of intentions by our institutions that this should be the beginning of greater collaborations between the filmmakers of each country and that Swiss films should reach Mexican audiences and Mexican films welcomed by the Swiss public,” Sanchez added. A co-production treaty may also facilitate films made with it easier access to Europe’s French and German-speaking markets.

The traditional road-bump for co-productions has been pricing: Given its economic budgets, unless it brings an international star to the table, Mexico would struggle to meet minimum participation requirements of 30% or 20% to trigger an official co-production which gains bi-nationality status and hence access to both countries’ film support systems.

That caveat may now be disappearing, however, as Mexican budgets rise.

The declaration of intentions was signed by Sanchez and Louis-José Touron, the Swiss ambassador in Mexico, the declaration of co-production intentions comes as the two countries have one hot-button issue in common, Swiss Films director Catherine Anne Berger pointed out after the co-pro pact’s signing.

“Thematically, we have one issue which is important to both countries: Borders, and conflicts on the borders. That may allow for a very interesting dialog: How does Switzerland handle conflicts on borders, and how does Mexico do that?” Berger asked.

She added: “Interesting, one of the first films made near Mexico, Luc Peter and Stephanie Barbey’s “Broken Land,” was shot at the border between Mexico and the U.S. And it was a Swiss production.”

With more producers contributing to a production with not jut equity coin but expertise, the Swiss-Mexico treaty would contribute to the “internationalization of professionalism” of both industries, Berger argued, to general assent. “Co-productions force writers and directors to be precise, precise, precise with their universal vision.”

“Switzerland is an innate co-producing country, sometimes constructing domestic co-productions, and some Swiss filmmakers are certainly interested in Mexico,” said Ivan Trujillo, Guadalajara Fest director.

Per Touron, the two countries will attempt to have the co-pro treaty up-and-running by 2017. He cited Milagros Mumenthaler’s Swiss/Argentine “La idea de un lago” and “La Historia Invisible,” from Paraguay’s Arami Ullon, among a dozen or so Swiss-Latin America co-productions in development or production.

Touron pointed out the accord comes on the 7oth anniversary of Mexico-Switzerland diplomatic relations. Sanchez also recalled the large impact that Alain Tanner’s films had on Mexico City cine-clubs in the 1970s. it is still to be seen if the co-production treaty will include any distribution provisions.

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