Telling the story of a Swiss farmer who has encountered a life-changing event, director Michael Koch’s story is an emotional tale with convincing performances from a number of previously untrained actors. Supercharged by the natural beauty of the country, A Piece of Sky (or Drii Winter) is a quiet but powerful film that shouldn’t be missed in this year’s viewing.
We were able to encounter the director and some of the cast at an intimate luncheon held in the official residence of the Swiss Consul General. Hosted by His Excellency Niculin Jäger, the afternoon was a moment to indulge in Swiss hospitality and learn first-hand about the creation of the film.
In terms of production, A Piece of Sky was clearly a mission of determination and persuasion on behalf of director Michael Koch, an actor himself. According to the director, “We had to convince some of the actors to actually do the project.” This was especially true for the main character, real-life farmer Simon Wisler. The cow farmer and president of the Parpan alpine cheese dairy spent about a year pondering the possibility before agreeing to the work.
Michèle Brand, who performs opposite of Wisler, was also without acting training, but was more ready to learn the craft. “Yes, I quit my job as an architect in order to pursue this. I saw an offer in the newspaper, and that was all.” Her performance is refined and careful. Altogether, Koch was able to access a level of realism that should tantalize many directors.
For audiences, especially an American one, this level of authenticity in both story and scene may require an adjustment. The film is slow moving and obsessively paced, almost forcing a viewer to situate oneself deeply in the mind of the actors. Reading is fundamental. To this end, it is satisfying once you’re able to access this mental territory. Koch does try to force the hand with opening scenes of slow, natural moments which help set the tone.
Independent of the film itself, the director was forced to contend with the reality of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which struck during portions of filming. It was at the forethought for much of the cast during production. “No one became ill during any part of the filming. Even so, it was always the topic of discussion”.
Collecting a world’s worth of praise since its premiere, A Piece of Sky is an accomplishment. Learn more about the film here. The 95th Academy Awards will take place on March 12, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Learn more about the awards here.
The event in New York City also recognized two other pieces of Swiss creativity: two documentaries presented at this year’s DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival. First, the world premiere of Radical Landscapes, directed by Elettra Fiumi. The documentary came out of the discovery of a vast archive of work by her father, Fabrizio Fiumi. Fabrizio, along with the group of radical architects called 9999, imagined architectural innovations and anticipated a future that is still forthcoming.
Girl Gang, directed by Susanne Regina Meures, explores the world of young influencers by following a single family over the course of four years. The documentary focuses on Leonie in Berlin, at the time 13 years old and with half a million followers. “She united all the traits of a girl that lives a life through social media”, noted Susanne in an interview with Variety . Learn more about the film here.