Alexander J. Seiler, an exponent of the new-wave of Swiss cinema of the 1960's, is partially responsible for the shift in Swiss film from pastoral Alpine mountain scenes and peasant dramas to one of social responsibility and consciousness. Seiler's background in drama was an advantage - he was not bound by the existing conventions and rules of the trade of filmmaking.
His Siamo Italiani [The Italians 1964] was 'the thunderbolt that rudely awakened Swiss cinema from the slumbers in which it had been since the end of the War'. Seiler's cameras descended from the lofty Alpine peaks into the streets of everyday life. Siamo Italiani marked an ideological and stylistic change in Swiss filmmaking and now cinema was to be seized upon as a critical tool and means of personal expression. Seiler revealed the Swiss as more than a nation that hid behind their banal defensiveness and hypocritical neutralism. Palaver, Palaver, a work made some 25 years later, continued this revelatory process and secures his legacy as a maker of quality documentaries. Born in 1928 in Zurich, Seiler studied and worked as a journalist, and completed his Ph.D. on the theatrical work of Jean Giraudoux in 1957.
From 1961, he worked in collaboration with Rob Gnant and June Kovach and was active in film politics, being a founding member of the Swiss Film Centre and Executive Secretary of the Association of Swiss Film Makers.
We are pleased to have Alexander J. Seiler here as a guest of this Festival. He will introduce a screening of each of his films and answer questions from the audience. They are Siamo Italiani Sunday 20th June and Palaver, Palaver Friday 25th June.
Richard Dindo is an important contributor to the development of the modern documentary. His films have provoked heated debates, partly because of their content matter [anti-fascism, Switzerland in World War II, the Zurich youth revolts], but also because of his passion for the art of remembering. Described variously as the 'memory composer', biographer and portraitist, Dindo's project is above all the redemption of memory as the ultimate form of consciousness. His films are reconstructions of the past, traversing whatever materials and traces of memory are available in order for history to be brought to life.
Dindo was born in Zurich in 1944 to parents of Italian descent. Soon after leaving school at the age of 15, he started traveling, taking odd jobs to pay his way. "I started going to the cinema very early - I went to Paris because I'd heard that you could see films at the Cinematheque Française. Then I married a French woman who supported me for several years. For several years I saw three or four films a day. I spent years just going to the cinema and reading hundreds of books. That's how I educated myself".
Dindo returned to Zurich in 1970 to launch a career which has produced more than 15 feature documentary titles and has put him at the forefront of Swiss filmmaking. He lives and works in Paris and Zurich.
We are pleased to welcome Richard Dindo here as a guest of the Festival. He will introduce a screening of each of his films and answer questions from the audience. They are Une Saison au Paradis [A Season in Paradise] Wednesday 23 June at 5.45pm and Ernesto Che Guevara Tuesday 22 June at 8pm.
Thomas Imbach is a filmmaker whose passion for innovation pushes his films to the edge of comfortable viewing. Searching for a filmic language capable of giving adequate expression to our daily lives, he attempts to reinvent film with every new release. Born in 1961 in Lucerne, Switzerland, Imbach studied history and philosophy before beginning a career in cinema, shooting news and making short films.
He received acclaim as an independent filmmaker with his docu-fiction works Schlachtzeichen  and Restlessness  both of which depict Swiss social relationships. Imbach_s first pure documentary, Well Done was released in 1994. Enthusiastically received, it scooped 5 European awards and pitched a radical new set of propositions to challenge traditional documentary techniques.
Imbach and cameraman Jurg Hassler prefer to follow a method they call 'relaxed shooting': minimal organisation, a total ban on staging, and much use of 'productive hanging around'. Their method is to stick close to their subjects in order to capture the detail and texture of their lives. "We completely avoid the gap that usually opens up when the film crew hides behind too much equipment", they remark on their use of hand held mini-dv cameras, a minimalism that allows a new kind of intimacy to open up between filmmaker, subject and spectator. The wide shot images are filmed on 35mm to complement the video close-ups and lend atmospheric depth to the subjects' environment.
Imbach's innovative use of technology and filming methodology have won him an enviable and well-deserved reputation as a documentary-maker.
We are pleased to welcome Thomas Imbach as a guest of Pro Helvetia at this Festival. He will introduce a screening of each of his films and answer questions from the audience. They are Ghetto Monday 21 at 5.45pm and Well Done Thursday 24 at 9pm.
Harriet Gavshon, one of South Africa's most prolific film producers, has built a reputation for telling extraordinary tales about ordinary people. The producer of such South African classics as Ordinary People, Ghetto Diaries and Real Lives, award-winning Gavshon documentaries allow us access to the stories behind the headlines. From mail-order matchmaking to virginity testing, Gavshon's cameras use cinema verite to get a grip on South African lives.
After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand she went on to complete an MA at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. On her return in 1984 she lectured at UNISA and Wits before embarking on her film career with Mail & Guardian Television.
We are pleased to welcome Harriet Gavshon as a guest of Pro Helvetia and this Festival. She will introduce a screening of each of her productions and answer questions from the audience.
They are Real Lives Tuesday 22 June at 5.45pm and Charmaine's Story/ Sara Baartman Wednesday 23 June at 8.45pm.
Liz Fish is an award-winning director and producer who has been in the business for some fifteen years now. Trained at the BBC's Elstree Studios, she was director of the Community Video Education Trust [CVET] from 1982 to 1989 where she shot, edited and produced over 50 programmes.
She has produced and directed film for South African television, among them Cutting the Cord and Where There Is No Doctor. She also directed and edited Thokoza Video Dialogues for the Africa: Search For Common Ground project.
Currently she is working at Ubuntu Television as both producer and director on a programme called Youth Network TV. Liz Fish is a guest of Pro Helvetia and this Festival. She will introduce the screening of her film and answer questions from the audience on Monday 21 June at 8.30pm.
Cliff Bestall has made over 50 documentaries in the past 20 years and received many international prizes for his work, among them the Artes Award for the original series of Ordinary People. Bestall_s interest in the conventions of documentary is evident in his innovative approach to the making of Nelson Rolilhlala Mandela - an intimate portrait.
Bestall avoids the classic mode of 'objective' filming, here there is no single authorial voice, rather a range of perspectives and often striking contradictions which encourages the exploration of the subtle textures of truth. We are pleased to welcome Cliff Bestall as a guest of Pro Helvetia and this Festival.
He will introduce the screening and answer questions from the audience on Thursday 24 June at 6pm. We are grateful to the SABC for the opportunity to have the World Premiere screening of the complete intimate portrait.
Nicolaas Hofmeyer has been working in the television industry for the past 15 years. He shot 13 episodes of the award winning documentary series Ordinary People and won an award for best investigative journalism for his story on illegal immigrants in South Africa.
Hofmeyer also produced and directed four stories for Channel Four¹s African Express. He was the director of photography for the acclaimed SABC series Africa Salutes Mandela by John Matshikiza. In addition, he has made award winning music videos for South African artists.
As a documentary photographer and photo-journalist his work has appeared in several exhibitions and journals. He recently photographed a 40 minute documentary for the German television network WDR. We are pleased to welcome Nicolaas Hofmeyer as a guest of Pro Helvetia and this Festival.
Liza Key is presently the director of SCRAWL, the South African Screenwriters Laboratory, an initiative to develop feature film scripts which is run annually in Cape Town.
In 1987 she directed the first Weekly Mail Film Festival which was to become the respected Mail & Guardian Film Festival. She also founded the Mail & Guardian Short Film Competition and the Limits of Liberty Festival. In 1997 she formed Key Films and was associate producer on Songs for the Golden City for Channel 4 [UK].
The Furiosus is her first film as a director. We are pleased to welcome Liza Key here as a guest of Pro Helvetia and this Festival. She will introduce the screening of The Furiosus and answer questions from the audience on Saturday 26 at 6pm.
Craig Matthew and Joëlle Chesselet [Doxa Productions] have a particular interest in the relationship between people and the environment. Their focus on the people and landscape of the Kaokoveld began in 1987.
First there was a film about innovative conservation schemes for the Namibian desert elephant and rhino, then an award winning film on the western flowing ephemeral rivers of Namibia. This film is about the struggle of the Himba people to preserve their lands around the Epupa Falls and the Cunene River.
Their other prize-winning works include This Crazy Thing Called Grace [1997; on Archbishop Desmond Tutu] and Mercury - An Island Diary , a visual poem that has received five awards at a range of international festivals.
We are pleased to welcome Craig and Joëlle as guests of Pro Helvetia and this Festival. They will introduce the screening and answer questions from the audience on Saturday 26 June at 8pm.