Makers of Grounding wary of legal eagles

Grounding is a no holds barred account of the last days of Swissair Filmcoopi Zürich AG

The makers of a film depicting the fall of Swissair will be looking over their shoulders for legal action when the movie hits the screens on Thursday.

This content was published on January 19, 2006 - 10:58

The people behind Grounding: The Last Days of Swissair hope it will be writ-proof despite an ongoing Swissair liquidation process that threatens former executives with lawsuits.

Editor and co-script writer Tobias Fueter told swissinfo that the film is a faithful recreation of events leading to the demise of the Switzerland's former national airline, despite utilising a large dollop of creative licence.

"There is a fear that we could face legal action, but we tried to be as truthful as possible," he said.

"We had to make the film because if we can't do these things for fear of legal action then we are living in a really scary world.

As for taking dramatic liberties, Fueter admits that they gave the story a little music – "but I only see that as enhancing the story, not turning it around or taking events out of context".

Legal advice

Swissair liquidator Karl Wüthrich has already filed lawsuits against former executives of the company and recently revealed others may be sued.

Grounding has some obvious bad guys, including UBS chairman Marcel Ospel, but Fueter is confident that his team of lawyers have done a good job.

"Our lawyers told us to cut some material and we had a team of about 20 people acting like a safety net. Everything that was not true fell through that net," Fueter said.

"Maybe some of the good guys in the film will also get into trouble with the liquidators. I'm sure their lawyers will be telling them to keep quiet and not draw attention to themselves."

He added: "Maybe the Swiss people should get a lawsuit too for getting these people into these positions of power."

Government interference

Fueter revealed that "people", whom he refused to name, tried to pull the rug out from under the film before it even got off the ground. He said attempts were made to stop funding for the movie from the Federal Culture Office.

"In Switzerland the film industry is subsidised by the state, which is our lifeline. We know for a fact that some people tried to stop this funding," he said.

"The producer [Fueter's father, Peter-Christian] was invited into a room with lawyers who told him that they were watching us."

Fueter believes it was important to make the film to give people the full picture and to help heal some of the wounds caused by the loss of the nation's national airline.

"It is unusual for the Swiss to wash their dirty laundry in public because we are not used to such things happening," he said.

"About 50 per cent of the things shown in the film will be new to people on the street because they would not have been able to take it all in at the time.

"I think the public reaction will be quite strong, but you heal wounds by putting alcohol on them, then the pain goes away."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Key facts

Swissair liquidator Karl Wüthrich has initiated legal proceedings against former Swissair CEOs Philippe Bruggisser and Mario Corti, and several former board members.
Wüthrich recently stated that another round of lawsuits could be directed at around 25 other people in the next few months.
It could take another three years to conclude four bankruptcy procedures, including one for SairGroup and another for Swissair.

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In brief

Swissair planes were grounded on October 2, 2001, after 71 years in business, leading to national humiliation.

The downturn in the aviation market after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, proved the last straw for the heavily indebted Swissair, which folded the following year.

The airline collapsed because it over-extended itself by buying stakes in numerous loss-making airlines in an attempt to form its own airline alliance.

The remains of Swissair and the regional carrier Crossair were bundled together in 2002 to form the new national carrier Swiss, which was in turn taken over by Lufthansa last year.

Swiss has yet to turn a profit.

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