Mad Heidi – probably the most unusual Swiss production this year

Heidi leads the resistance against the cheese tycoon’s dictatorship. Image: Swissploitation Films GmbH

Conversation

“Mad Heidi” is probably the most unusual Swiss production this year. But does the exploitation film live up to the hype? Director Johannes Hartmann and producer Valentin Greutert talk about adversity beforehand – and why streaming services would be deadly for their film.

Tobias Sedlmaier / CH Media

Even the premise of “Crazy Heidi” should ring a bell in the ears of some even-keeled Swiss moviegoers. Here, our national sanctuary Heidi is to deal with brute force, a portion of garbage and an attack on the funny bone. In “Mad Heidi,” the idyllic Swiss world has given way to the dictatorship of a cheese tycoon (played by B-movie icon Casper Van Dien) who harbors an immense hatred for people with lactose intolerance.

Alpine girl Heidi (Alice Lucy) becomes the leader of the resistance in this exploitation film, which happily quotes from its vile, brutal and ironic role models of the 70s and their epigones, such as Quentin Tarantino (“Death Proof”). The financing was also unusual: the “first Swissploitation film” raised 2 million francs, which corresponds to about two-thirds of the budget, through international crowdfunding, which is one of the reasons why the film is largely dubbed in English. The 538 supporters are automatically included in the income.

Still a movie

Some are offended because they see the Swiss flag being misused as a Nazi…Image: Swissploitation Films GmbH

But is “Crazy Heidi” really the unpleasant, unpredictable punch to the stomach of the Swiss film landscape? Especially at the beginning and at the end, the film puts you in a good mood, the timing is right. It drags a bit in the middle. In a possible sequel, which is already being considered, there would be far more steam, more irritation, less targeted treatment of stereotypes. The hype beforehand may have fueled expectations too much.

The makers promised fan service, fan service will get the audience. Real surprises are too rare. Swiss clichés and a few whimsical sayings (“Rest in cheese!”) are mostly used for cheese. Still, it was good and brave to make such a film in Switzerland; especially against some backlash, as the filmmakers explained at the Zurich Film Festival.

How did you come up with the idea for “Mad Heidi”?
Johannes Hartmann, Director: I like B-movies and exploitation movies from the 70s. While looking for stories that could be realized in Switzerland, I came up with the idea of ​​mixing the clichés of old Swiss films with elements of action, horror and comedy.

Still a movie

… others scream “shit multicultural propaganda”.Image: Swissploitation Films GmbH

When did you know that the funding model would be crowdfunding?
Johannes Hartmann: That became clear pretty quickly when we talked to the producers. I first approached the producers of “Iron Sky”. Then someone recommended Valentino, who did “One Way Trip” in 2011, which was classically funded, but still a genre entry from Switzerland. Certainly not every film is suitable for this method of financing. But I think genre films are destined for this because they have a very passionate fan community and people are willing to buy a movie t-shirt.

epa10216435 (LR) British actor David Schofield, director Sandro Klopfstein, director Johannes Hartmann, British actor Alice Lucy, Swiss actor Max Ruedlinger, ZFF artistic director Christian Jungen and ...

Image: keystone

Johannes Hartmann

was born in Basel in 1985. From 2007 he studied film and video at the Bern Design School and produced various music videos, short films and commercials. He co-founded Decoy Films GmbH in 2010 and Swissploitation Films GmbH in 2019.

Streamers are now also increasingly relying on genre production…
Valentin Greutert, producer:
But that was never possible for me as a producer. They are the nemesis for the kind of film we make. We are independent filmmakers and we don’t want any American digs messing with us. It was about finding a new way of financing and not just following the old, well-trodden path. When you’re making a movie like “Mad Heidi” for Netflix, you’re just a henchman of a custom production, that’s not interesting. We are finally building our own brand with “Mad Heidi”. In addition, it was very easy to work with the fans, get their feedback and support.

Hartmann: Without the commitment of the fans, the project would not have survived. You have always maintained high motivation.

Among other things, in 2020 there was a script meeting with fans, where they could bring their own ideas. How were investors’ expectations reflected in the film? Didn’t your artistic freedom and independence suffer a little?
Greutert: It’s not like the fans have veto power. And they trust us too. When we went to Brussels, 30 of our investors just came with us, almost as if we were pop stars and they were fans. They supported us in every way. The swarm intelligence worked wonderfully. When we needed extras, some came. If we were looking for a special chapel, we immediately received hundreds of suggestions. In post-production, we needed the voices of the hooting rebels. Almost 100 people signed up within three hours. One traveled all the way from Italy to roar into the microphone five times.

Valentin Greutert

Valentin Greutert

was born in Basel in 1974. He has produced more than 20 feature films and documentaries, including “Bruno Manser – The Voice of the Rainforest”. Greutert is a member of the ACE (Ateliers du Cinéma Européen) producer club, the European Film Academy and the Swiss Film Academy and founded A Film Company in 2015.

“Crazy Heidi” already had a public presence beforehand, including an appearance by soldiers with armbands. Has there been hostility or complaints from Switzerland about what you will do with your beloved Heidi?
Greutert:
Numerous. During and before filming. In the beginning, only the fans took us seriously. Most people have never seen a movie like this and when they hear about “Mad Heidi” they think we are defaming Switzerland. You can tell from the film that we all like Switzerland, otherwise we wouldn’t spend so much time on it.

Hartmann: We heard almost everything. Some are offended because they see the Swiss flag being misused as a Nazi flag. Others scream “shit multicultural propaganda”. Above all, I was surprised by how some institutions approached it. The case where one of our co-authors lost his job with the Zurich cantonal police was widely publicized. The person who worked on the costume for Heidi was kicked out of the costume tailors guild. I would have never thought that something like this was possible in 2020.

Still a movie

The exploitation film gleefully quotes from its vile, brutal and ironic role models from the 1970s and their epigones such as Quentin Tarantino.Image: Swissploitation Films GmbH

Greutert: Victorinox wanted to sue us for the pocketknife in the original trailer where we used the “Swiss Army Knife” trademark. And it was said that we were going to use the Victorinox knife as a weapon, even though it is not one according to the Swiss Weapons Act. But now there is a funny scene in the movie about this topic…

It seems that the genre film, which is often considered eccentric, does not have it easy in Switzerland…
Hartmann:
Good genre films are more humorous and, above all, often much more socially critical than all the seemingly relevant and pseudo-intellectual dramas. The good thing about genre films is that you can be funny on the surface and subversive in the subtext. Many people do not understand this, even in the cultural funding bodies.

Still a movie

“Crazy Heidi” mixes the clichés of old Swiss home movies with elements of action, horror and comedy.Image: Swissploitation Films GmbH

Despite the unusual financing, you didn’t want to do without a classic release in cinemas…
Greutert:
My goal has always been to release the film in Swiss cinemas. Cinema abroad is often not interesting because it only costs money and brings nothing. Our ultimate goal is to get backers to see their money back. The current distribution system, in which all territories in the world act for themselves, is over. Now everyone is slowly waking up to streaming services. They push a button once and the whole world will look at their stuff. We wanted to change the system and make it the way we want.

“Mad Heidi”: In theaters. And available as a stream on the madheidi.com homepage from December 8th.

“Mad Heidi” is probably the most unusual Swiss production this year. But does the exploitation film live up to the hype? Director Johannes Hartmann and producer Valentin Greutert talk about adversity beforehand – and why streaming services would be deadly for their film.

Even the premise of “Crazy Heidi” should ring a bell in the ears of some even-keeled Swiss moviegoers. Here, our national sanctuary Heidi is to deal with brute force, a portion of garbage and an attack on the funny bone. In “Mad Heidi,” the idyllic Swiss world has given way to the dictatorship of a cheese tycoon (played by B-movie icon Casper Van Dien) who harbors an immense hatred for people with lactose intolerance.

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