Marcel Gisler

Growing up in Altstätten in the Rhine Valley, films were an early spiritual extension into the world. They were windows to foreign milieus, thoughts and life worlds for me. I was fascinated by the emotional immediacy of the medium, and the desire to make films as a career had already taken root in me at the age of 19. But I didn’t” know exactly how to go about it.

After two unsuccessful entrance exams to film schools and the move to Berlin at 21, I decided to try it on my own. Together with a film-enthusiastic group of friends from Berlin, we worked on various small projects in a “cinéma copain” workshop style. It was learning by doing, similar to a film school. From these first cinématographic steps, as if from a laboratory of ideas, came my first long feature film “Tagediebe” in 1985, which won the Silver Leopard in Locarno.

At the age of 25, I had a foot in the door, but was still far from earning any money from filmmaking. But “Tagediebe” enabled me to take my first plane trips and participate in festivals, such as the “New Directors” Festival at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York. Most importantly, the film convinced people at key levers in the industry to continue supporting me. Through their active encouragement, I was able to shoot and present the next feature films, “Sleepless Nights” (1988, Bronze Leopard, Locarno), “The Blue Hour” (1992, Max Ophüls Prize, Saarbrücken: Best Feature Film, Best Young Actor), “F. est un salaud” (1997, Swiss Film Award: Best Feature Film).

In the meantime, I was able to make a living from film, my reputation had been established, and I also dared to call myself a film director without inner reservations. But then a health crisis forced me to take a longer break. Since I didn’t have the energy for my own projects during that time, I decided to work as a screenwriter for the Swiss television series Lüthi & Blanc. Until the cancellation of the series in 2007, I wrote the scripts for 34 episodes.

In 2012, I finally financed my own feature film again, “Rosie”. I was able to shoot the autobiographically colored film in Altstätten and the surrounding area with the generous support of the Altstätten town council. “Rosie” was nominated six times for the Swiss Film Award, the leading actress Sibylle Brunner won it as best female lead. It was followed by the documentary “Electroboy” (2014, Swiss Film Awards: Best Documentary), “Mario” (2018, Swiss Film Awards: Best Leading Actor Max Hubacher, Best Supporting Actress Jessy Moravec). In 2019, I shot a pure TV feature film for the first time, “Aus dem Schatten” with Anna Schinz and Stefan Kurt.

While the first films in Berlin were strongly influenced by the urge for self- representation, by the ambition to portray a young urban generation, later the socio-political interest increasingly moved into the center of my work. The visualization of minorities and marginalized figures, the thematization of diversity and social taboos.

The peculiar thing about filmmaking remains that, despite growing experience and trophy collection, each new film is always the same challenge as my very first film was. That it requires the same self-confidence, the same power of persuasion and resilience. Each film means entering new artistic territory, with all the imponderables, fears and hopes. The possibility of failure is a constant companion. And yet, or perhaps because of that, it remains the greatest profession in the world for me.