Neuland Switzerland 2013 – 93min.
Having come from all around the world in search of a better life in Switzerland, a group of adolescents takes an integration course in Basel from Mr. Zingg. The teacher’s only objective is for his pupils to discover the language and culture of Switzerland as they discover their professional potential. But the two years of training are long and difficult, fraught as they are with failure and rejection.
Even though it was filmed in a classroom, "Neuland" is not a documentary about school in the vein of Nicolas Philibert’s award-winning "Être et avoir". The challenges faced by the teacher and his pupils are not those of education, but of immigration and integration. Heroes of daily life, the adolescents are endearing in their endurance, their silence and their small successes along the complicated paths their lives have assigned to them. Anna Thommen’s diploma film achieves a delicate balance as she presents these young people not as victims but as fighters, and Switzerland neither as a paradise nor as a closed-off society. Through skillful editing, her uncompromising film focuses on a few individuals: Nazlije and her brother Ismail, who moved to Switzerland when their mother died; Ehsanullah, a 19-year-old Afghani whose journey to Switzerland on foot and by inflatable dinghy took a year; and the indispensable teacher, Christian Zingg, the safe port in the storm. Together they find out what kind of future our country can realistically offer these uprooted young people.