Swiss director enters the ring at Locarno

A scene from "Fuori dalle corde", in the international competition at Locarno

Fulvio Bernasconi is the only Swiss director with a film in the international competition at the Locarno Film Festival – this year celebrating its 60th anniversary.

This content was published on August 3, 2007 - 12:08

His work, "Fuori dalle corde" (Off the Ropes), tells the story of a boxer who becomes involved in illegal fights. It is the fruit of a longstanding passion for cinema which started when Bernasconi was a boy.

"One day I saw a photo in the newspaper of a film by [fellow Swiss director] Michel Beltrami," recalls Bernasconi, who comes from Ticino in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.

"I was 14 and I remember thinking: films can also be made like this, not only like in Hollywood. From that day onwards this photo was burned into my memory and has never left me."

After studying politics, Bernasconi enrolled in the Lausanne film school, the first of its kind in Switzerland. After graduating, he was lucky enough to find work as a director straightaway.

"No matter whether it's a documentary or a work of fiction, I really like the shoot," he told swissinfo. "I like the sensation of adrenaline linked to doing something, which then gets converted into action," he explained.

"I am a doer, someone who can't stand still. It's all part of my creative process."

Hard work

Although Bernasconi knows he is lucky to have a profession he loves, he is well aware of its pitfalls and the need to work hard and devote himself to his craft.

How does a Ticinese feel about "Fuori dalle corde" competing against 18 other films for the Golden Leopard in Locarno, which is also in Ticino?

Bernasconi smiles. "I am very pleased to be in the international competition... it's almost the high point of a journey," he said.

"Locarno has always been for me like a ski school – I have attended all the classes. I have presented my work in various sections from the Leopards of Tomorrow to the Filmmakers of the Present... and now here I am facing the biggest test: the international competition."

He added: "For me these stages signify a natural pathway and an evolution in my work. And who knows? Perhaps one day I will also be shown on the [huge outdoor screen in the] Piazza Grande."

Personal experiences

Bernasconi drew on personal experiences to make his film: days spent with the homeless in Geneva when making a documentary, and his own memories of illegal fights held in abandoned swimming pools.

"This image of fights in abandoned pools seemed a very powerful one to me, and it's a visual metaphor for violence – also present in unimaginable places, like among the homeless where atavistic instincts get the upper hand – as well as a metaphor for the opulence of society," Bernasconi said.

The director said he had worked very hard on the project. The story changed over time, becoming stronger.

Bernasconi believes that films do not have to be technically perfect. "Films are an instrument of communication, and, as such, should transmit emotions, reach out and touch the public."

He also thinks a director needs love and determination for his work as well as stamina.

"A director should always strive to make the best film possible. And for me the best films are those that the public come to love and appreciate. This does not mean making compromises or concessions to public taste, but rather transmitting a message," he said.

"[Swiss author] Max Frisch said the role of an intellectual was to look for the truth over and above his own interests. This is a little bit what guides my work."

swissinfo, based on an Italian article by Françoise Gehring

Biography and films

Fulvio Bernasconi was born in 1969. He is a director of films and documentaries.

He graduated in political sciences from Geneva University and also studied directing at film school in Lausanne.


"Bad Trip to Mars" (1996): film.
"200 anni d'acqua" (1998): television documentary for canton Ticino's 200-year anniversary.
"Generazione Disoccupazione" (1998): television documentary.
"ID Swiss" (1999): nominated for "best documentary" at Swiss cinema prize.
"Les créatures futures" (2000): television documentary.
"L'ospedale" (2000): television documentary.
"SwissLove" (2002): interactive film for the Swiss national exhibition "Expo02".
"La Diga" (2003): television film.

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Fuori dalle corde

"Fuori dalle corde" is about Mike, a 30-year-old boxer from Trieste. Mike and his sister Anna dream of world championship glory. But the reality is harsh and sometimes dangerous.

Mike becomes involved in underground boxing events and starts winning. But when he realises he no longer wants to be part of it, it is almost too late.

It is the only Swiss film competing for the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. The film will be shown on August 5 at 4.15pm.

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