The Swiss film industry is primarily known for its documentaries. However, in the last few years a number of feature films have enjoyed considerable success, such as Heidi, Mein Name ist Eugen and Sister.

Two young people standing next to a country road
The film “Sister” by the director Ursula Meier, released in 2012. © EDA, Präsenz Schweiz

Swiss cinematic output is characterised by its strong emphasis on a descriptive and often critical take on life in Switzerland. Twentieth century film-making in Switzerland can be classified into four key periods: Swiss-German silent films (1915–1919), Swiss-French silent films (1919–1924), classic inter- and post-war films (1930–1964) and contemporary output (since 1964). 

In the 1960s, Switzerland saw the arrival of ’New Swiss Cinema’, which emerged at the same time as the French New Wave movement. It heralded a break with previous cinematic tradition by establishing a new and more reality-driven aesthetic. The leading exponents were the Swiss-French filmmakers Alain Tanner, Claude Goretta and Michel Soutter. 

A number of feature films have enjoyed international renown, including Les petites fugues (The Wild Oats) by Yves Yersin (1979), Die Schweizermacher  (The Swissmakers) by Rolf Lyssy (1978) and Höhenfeuer  (Alpine Heights) by Fredi M. Murer (1985). Xavier Koller’s Film Reise der Hoffnung (Journey of Hope) won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1991. 

In the field of documentary film, War Photographer (2002) by Christian Frei was nominated for an Oscar, and Markus Imhoof’s More Than Honey (2012) received a number of awards in different countries, as well as being selected as the best Swiss documentary film of all time. Other successful Swiss films that have sold 500,000 tickets at the box office include Grounding (2006), which documents the final days of the Swiss airline, Swissair, and Mein Name ist Eugen (2005). Jean-Stéphane Bron also came to international attention with his films Mais im Bundeshuus (2003) and L’Experience Blocher (2013), as did Ursula Meier with Home (2008) and Sister (2012) and Xavier Koller with Die schwarzen Brüder (2013). Alain Gsponser’s latest remake of the children’s classic Heidi (2015) has become Switzerland’s most successful feature film at home and abroad. 

The Swiss film industry receives public financial support (primarily from the Confederation and the cantons), the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG-SSR, foundations, firms and private donors. Swiss Films is the agency in charge of promoting Swiss films and supporting their international distribution. Since 1998 the Confederation annually holds the Swiss Film Awards. Switzerland also hosts a number of film festivals, including the Locarno International Film Festival, the documentary film festival, Visions du Réel, in Nyon, the Solothurn Film Festival, the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, as well as the Zurich Film Festival, which was launched in 2005.