Heart in the Emmental

Say ‚Emmental’ today and still the first thing many Swiss think of are the Gotthelf films of Franz Schnyder from the 1950s and 60s. Emmental means a land of farmers, cheese makers, and ‚Schwinger’, i.e. practitioners of a typically Swiss form of outdoor wrestling. In fact, many of the attributes that constitute the myth of the Emmental are still very much in evidence today: Steep, verdant hills, stately farms capped by low-slung roofs, a remoteness sought by many because it is pervaded by a sense of time standing still. Yet this bucolic world is not without rough edges and dark places. The Emmental was never just a land of prosperous farmers; there was a much exploited rural underclass as well, and despite the region’s booming trade in cheese and textiles, misery and poverty forced many to leave home and seek their fortune elsewhere. To this day there are two sides to the Emmental: A unique and often magical countryside that vibrates with an archaic vitality preserved throughout the centuries – and the realities of a region at the margins, forced to battle for its economic and cultural survival. This is the point of departure for the documentary „Herz im Emmental“. Projections and realities are presented side by side, through historic photographs and excerpts from Franz Schnyder films but for the most part in interviews with people from the region who tell their stories – stories of leaving and holding on, of labor conflicts and political quarreling, of hard rock in Trub and the textile industry in Bärau, of fifties-parochialism in Langnau and global inter-connectedness in Wasen today – stories without evident connection except for the one: their shared roots in the Emmental. The film takes us to Trub, Wasen, Eriswil, to Rüegsauschachen, and to the Lüderenalp but its true center is Langnau and – inevitably – the SCL Tigers, the great small-town hockey team. The team’s history is intertwined with the biographies of many of those who tell their stories in the movie: Hans Grunder, founder and president of the Bürgerlich-Demokratische Partei (BPD): Thomas Blunier, founder and guitarist of the hard rock band Shakra; Ida Heiniger-Frauchiger from Eriswil, the 78-year old daughter of a home worker exploited by textile barons; Bruno Marazzi, nephew of an Italian immigrant from Langnau, who went on to build on of the largest construction businesses in Switzerland; Barbara Wüthrich, Shakra-Fan and cook by trade from Wasen; Niklaus M. Lauterburg, last representative of a family of industrialists who have run a textile mill in Bärau for close to two centuries; longtime TV-host Ueli and songwriter Tinu Heiniger, sons of a cabinetmaker from Langnau who both left town after finishing school; Peter Jakob, industrialist from Trubschachen and president of the SCL Tigers. Shakra will be seen performing live (twice) and working on a new album in the studio. The band also performs the film score.


Bernhard Giger


Bernhard Giger
Bänz Friedli




Fernsehen SF1

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