AWFJ EDA Awards @ IDFA 2016 Filmmaker Interview: Alice Schmid on THE GIRL DOWN LOCH ANZI

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alice-schmid-headshotAlice Schmid, filmmaker and novelist, tells stories from around the globe, mostly focusing on children. Say No (1993) is a film classic on child abuse. Working in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1999 to 2002, she showed the lives of child soldiers. In Letter to Grown-Ups (1994) she followed a child through the mine-fields of Cambodia. In Every Drop For The Future (1996), she accompanied a Bolivian girl on her two-hour walk to school. With her first feature film, The Children of Mount Napf (2011), she returned to Switzerland, to the region that is also the setting for her best-selling first novel, Thirteen is My Number.

The Girl Down Lock Anzi, nominated for the IDFA 2016 AWFJ EDA Award, is also set in rural Switzerland. Twelve-year-old Laura lives on the family farm, surrounded by animals and nature. She is fascinated by a local legend about a maiden who is supposed to be held captive in the caves close to where she lives. But she wouldn’t dare go check out the story on her own, and this summer there are no other kids around. She spends her days birdwatching, helping out on the farm and writing in her diary, the only place where she can express her loneliness, concerns about her weight, dreams and nightmares. Then a boy from the city comes to work on the farm. Will he be a new friend and take her to the famous cave where no one else dares to go? This sensitive, respectful film tells Laura’s story through significant details: the all-seeing eye of a horse, rutting turkeys and rubber boots in muddy puddles. All of these aspects of Laura’s life are intercut with fictional elements that are hardly distinguishable from what is real. Watch the trailer.


AWFJ: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and the main characters in it?

ALICE SCHMID: I was convinced that the saga of Loch Änzi was a silly story. Despite the fact that adults considered it off limits, I ventured down into Loch Änzi, wanting to find the banished virgin. At that time, I was twelve years old. I had always wanted to make a film around Loch Änzi. The main character Laura (12) had a little part in my previous documentary: She was humiliated by the teacher, because she didn’t write properly the alphabet. The fact, that she could sing better the alphabet than write, did not count. That is, why I chose her for my new film and because she is in spite of everything writing diary.

AWFJ: What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

AS: It is more efficient to make movies with strong humorous girls in a men dominated world.

AWFJ: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

AS: Even if the film goes in a completely different direction, keeping on following my subject by placing the main character in the center and never tell her/him what to do.

AWFJ: What were your biggest challenges?

AS: Writing the script about an underestimated girl leaving close to the Loch Änzi, in a place avoided by everybody.

AWFJ: Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

AS: In this area it was an every-day female challenge not to offend the locals to reach my goal.

AWFJ: What are your plans for the future?

AS: I am writing my second novel. It takes place in the same region where girls still experience abuse.

AWFJ: Who are the Filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

AS: Jane Campion, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini

AWFJ: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

AS: Work hard, have fun, be clear, focus on your own topics, never stop, there is always a door opening.


Alice Schmid was born in Lucerne in 1951. She studied Spanish and Italian, and in 1996 established her own production company, Ciné A.S. GmbH., in Zurich. Her work has won international awards and when shown on Swiss Television reaches over 600,000 viewers.

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