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Locarno: Swiss Director Lionel Baier Boards Sicily-Set ‘South’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Swiss director Lionel Baier (“Longwave”) is developing “South,” a Sicily-set road movie mixing Europe’s immigration woes with those of a rocky mother-and-son rapport.

Baier, a Locarno regular, said the film, now at script stage, will be the third in a four-picture series portraying contemporary Europe. “These films are about political ideas, but really [more] about what connects European people together, and also about family,” Baier pointed out.

Baier, a Locarno regular, said the film, now at script stage, will be the third in a four-picture series portraying contemporary Europe. “These films are about political ideas, but really [more] about what connects European people together, and also about family,” Baier pointed out. 

Within this series of sorts, “South” will come after “Stealth” (2006) in which the protagonist — played by himself — went to Poland to search for his roots, and “Longwave” (2013) about a Swiss Radio crew caught up in Poland’s 1974 Carnation Revolution. 

In “South,” a 45-year-old French woman named Natalie who works as director of communications at an NGO is forced to take a trip through Sicily to contend with Europe’s current immigration crisis. She must bring along her 17-year-old son whom at one point she had abandoned when she took off to be with another woman.

“I’m working on making it a mix of the tensions in the mother-teen-ager relationship and those of how Europe is contending with migration,” said Baier. He added that, as is often the case in his films, this one will have comedic elements “without overdoing it.”

“South” is being produced by Pauline Gygax and Max Karli’s Geneva-based Rita Productions which last year joined forces with Bande à Part Films the production company in which Baier has teamed up with and directors Ursula Meier, Jean-Stéphane Bron and Frédéric Mermoud.

Baier’s new project is being pitched to prospective partners at the Locarno Festival’s Alliance For Development initiative which aims to help develop and co-produce projects from France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.   

Karli said they are in talks with several potential Italian co-producers “who will also help us editorially because we want to make sure it all makes sense for the Italians,” he noted. The film unfolds against a backdrop of complications prompted by Italy’s current anti-immigrant government.

The plan is to set up “South” as a co-production between Switzerland and Italy, possibly with a French or German partner.

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