Firouzeh Khosrovani’s “Radiograph of a Family,” the story of an Iranian family divided by secularism and religion, Western culture and Islamic revolution, found an ideal co-producer in Zurich-based company Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion.
The film, which premieres in the feature-length competition of the documentary festival IDFA, focuses on the filmmaker’s parents, a secular progressive father and devout Muslim mother. It recounts the family’s life in Switzerland, where her father Hossein studied radiology in Geneva and where Khosrovani spent her early years. While he was very much at home in the French-speaking city, her mother Tayi remained a stranger in a strange land, yearning to return to her native country, and increasingly active in the revolutionary fervor that would soon usher in a new political reality in Iran.
The film’s subject matter and connection to Switzerland made it a perfect fit for Dschoint Ventschr. Established in 1994 by filmmakers Samir and Werner Schweizer and producer Karin Koch, the company focuses on international co-productions, both features and documentaries, that deal with cross-cultural issues, politics and society.
Dschoint Ventschr producer Joël Jent first met Khosrovani in 2015 at China’s Silk Road Intl. Film Festival, which was screening her film “Fest of Duty” as well as Samir’s documentary “Iraqi Odyssey.”
It was there that Jent learned of Khosrovani’s next film, “Radiograph of a Family,” and they remained in contact about the project. He offered to help with archive material from Switzerland and possibly additional financing.
After Fabien Greenberg and Bård Kjøge Rønning of Norwegian shingle Antipode Films took the lead on the production, Jent and Khosrovani were able to secure backing from Swiss pubcaster RTS.
“This was a very good step for the film because RTS’s head of documentary, Steven Artels, really loved the project and he opened up his archives for us,” Jent recounts. “We had unlimited access to it.”
Khosrovani found ideal footage, fantastic golden moments of 1960s’ Switzerland that helped expand the film’s European angle, he notes.
Three-country co-productions like “Radiograph of a Family” are always a bit difficult since European companies have to work within the framework of co-production treaties, Jent adds. While Switzerland and Iran have good diplomatic relations, they don’t have a co-production treaty. A co-production was possible between Norway and Iran, however, which ultimately made the three-country project possible.
Dschoint Ventschr nevertheless has extensive experience working on projects in West Asia. “We have a lot of productions in the Middle Eastern region, obviously because one of the founders, Samir, is of Iraqi descent and we have a very social-political focus, clearly, in our topics,” Jent explains. “So the Middle East is definitely one of our interest regions where we work a lot, including Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, of course, and Egypt.”
“We’re all from a leftist political background and we are mainly interested in cross-cultural topics because we think this is the area where the most crucial questions of our times arise.”
Dschoint Ventschr produces around four to five films a year, with roughly an equal number of documentaries and feature films. The company’s recent productions include Marcus Vetter’s “The Forum,” an eye-opening look at the World Economic Forum, which opened last year’s Dok Leipzig fest; Samir’s feature film drama “Baghdad in My Shadow”; David Vogel’s study of religion and prejudice, “Shalom Allah”; and Anja Kofmel’s “Chris the Swiss,” which investigates the mysterious death of a young Swiss journalist during the Yugoslav wars.
About one-third of Dschoint Ventschr’s films are developed in-house, while the remaining two-thirds are projects brought by partners or new collaborations.
The company has over the years established a large network of close and trusted partners that regularly bring new projects from writers, directors and co-producers. “When you have established a good co-production relationship, you’re eager to continue the work because it’s not easy to find partners that you fully trust or with whom you share the same set of values or interests,” Jent notes.
“What is crucial in the case of Dschoint Ventschr is that the company enters the production of films at a very early stage. So we are usually always part of the development. We are all involved in the content of the films, we challenge the filmmakers, and try to establish a real dialogue or dialectic with them to help bring the films to a different level.”
As a Swiss company, Dschoint Ventschr also offers access to many funding instruments, which are also interesting for international producers. Switzerland offers not only film funding from the Federal Office of Culture, including the recently introduced FiSS film location promotion initiative, which is available to any international production that shoot at least five days in the country, but also regional bodies that offer support to productions shooting in specific cantons or regions.
Jent notes that that Switzerland has a very strong documentary tradition going back many years. “I think it’s culturally rooted to be meticulous and go really deep, and also because of the values of the society – humanism is rooted in Switzerland. Dschoint Ventschr definitely embodies that.”
The company has digitized most of its titles over the past decade and has a vast offering of films on its website. “There was extensive work done because we strongly believe in the availability of the films; that’s why we made them in the first place.”
Jent recently stepped down from his role as a producer in order to focus on writing but remains involved with the company in that capacity.
He has two projects in the works at Dschoint Ventschr, Samir’s “Stranger in a Village,” a semi-fictional story of racism inspired by James Baldwin’s 1951 stay in the alpine resort town of Leukerbad, which led to his essay of the same title; and Ali Al-Fatlawi’s “Al Baseer,” a tale of a blind ferryman in the Iraqi marshes who begins to lose his grasp on reality after an encounter with a mysterious woman.