Fredi M. Murer's Vitus (right), which is one of the semi-finalists for this year's best foreign-language film Academy Award, was selected as best Swiss film of 2006. Vitus, the story of a reluctant piano prodigy and his grandfather, stars Teo Gheorghiu and Bruno Ganz. It has sold nearly 200,000 tickets since its release in German-speaking Switzerland last year.
The best documentary winner was Heidi Specogna's The Brief Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, about a Guatemalan street kid who, after immigrating to the United States, joined the U.S. marine corps hoping to gain U.S. citizenship but ended up as the first dead U.S. soldier in the Iraq War.
The best film and best documentary awards are each worth SFr60,000 (US$48,000).
Screenwriter-director Andrea Štaka received the very first Swiss Film Award for best screenplay for Das Fräulein (above), about a Serbian immigrant (Marija Skaricic) who befriends another Balkan immigrant (Mirjana Karanovic, the outstanding lead in Grbavica) living in Zurich.
Das Fräulein had previously won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival and the Heart of Sarajevo at the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Jean-Luc Bideau was chosen best performer in a leading role (the Swiss Film Awards have no best actor/best actress split) in Jean-Stéphane Bron's comedy Mon frère se marie / My Brother Is Getting Married, about a dysfunctional family's attempts to seem functional during a wedding ceremony. Natacha Koutchoumov was the best supporting performer for Pas de panique / No Panic.
The most successful 2006 Swiss releases were Michael Steiner's Grounding and Bettina Oberli's Die Herbstzeitlosen / Late Bloomers, each with 400,000 admissions sold. (For comparison's sake, the most successful Swiss film ever is the 1978 comedy Die Schweizermacher, which sold nearly one million admissions.)
Grounding is a drama about how the demise of Swissair affected the people of Switzerland, while Late Bloomers (above) revolves around four elderly women (Stephanie Glaser, Heidi Maria Glössner, Monica Gubser, and Annemarie Düringer) who scandalize their little town when they decide to turn a local shop into a chic lingerie store.
Swiss productions nabbed 10 percent of the local box office, up from 6 percent in 2005. U.S. productions dominated the market (60 percent of box office revenues), followed by French (8.7 percent), British (8.3 percent), and German films (6 percent).
The Swiss Film Awards are organized by the Swiss Federal Culture Office, in association with Swiss Films, SRG SSR idée suisse, the Locarno International Film Festival, the Nyon documentary film festival (Visions du Réel), and the Solothurn Film Festival.
The Solothurn festival continues until Jan. 28.
Source for Swiss box office figures: Swissinfo.com