Christina/ April 15, 2018/ Categories, Ideas of philosophy

Leonidas Bieris documentary starts with a historical indexing of the meaning of the village Andermatt from the 19th century to the termination of the Cold War. Whereas the place in the Swiss Alps became a sophisticated at the turn of the century and played an important role in the second World War as a base for the Swiss army, Andermatt lost its glitter after the Cold War has officially ended.

Investments into the development of tourism had stopped and the inhabitants of Andermatt were worried about their future. Suddenly the Egyptian billionaire and business men Samih Sawiris turned up as the knight in shining armour with plans to turn the village into a superlative luxury resort for the upper class. A hideaway with luxury golf course, luxury hotels and fancy holiday appartments.

However, in the course of the film it shows that the initial enthusiasm of the residents (96 % are primarily in favour of the project) does not only pounce on doubts but turns into rejection.

With its documentary “Andermatt – Global Village” producer Bieri created a film that is a didactic play on unrestrained capitalism on the one hand and a review of the push out of the market of the “normal” population on the other hand. From 2008 to 2014 (until the opening of ‘Le Chedi’) he conducts the construction project and thereby shows impressively what the project does to the region and its people.

As an act of particular distressing and ruthless behavior I witnessed the starting sequence of the documentary when Hans R. Jenni, the operator of the luxury hotel “The Chedi” is not embarrassed to say directly into the camera that plans have it that Andermatt will become a destination comparable to Gstaad and St. Moritz within the next years and not just that: “We will bring the rich people to Andermatt, Jenni promises the investors. “Priority is given to those who can either afford to buy an apartment at 3-4 million Swiss Francs or pay 1.500 to 2.000 Swiss Francs per night”, he explains. “We want you”, he adds, “if you buy real estate or resides in a hotel. Otherwise, we will try to purge you. We will control Andermatt in any aspect. In the future this won’t be a place for everybody”.

Until that day I did not consider it possible that somehow would say something like that frankly on TV. I would have assumed that at least pretended to offer the inhabitants a certain future at the same time. It seems that the final wraps of decency have been stripped of. That’s how self-confident those people are.

Sawiris is about to invest two billion into Andermatt, even though, Udo Schneider, member of the consortium Andermatt Swiss Alps states that a holiday home is as necessary as a shot in the head. Still, the interest of the bold and the beautiful seems to be high at first; the investors are satisfied. But how about the residents? A farmer reveals that he has sold his land to the investors. Not out of conviction but the offered purchasing price was unbeatable and his future as a farmer uncertain at that time. Eventually he now works as a building labour for the project. He is not satisfied with the situation. Suddenly he is under time pressure. Construction stages are supposed to be finished with utopian time targets: “Everything has to be done fast”, the former farmer complaints to his family. Lately his foreman stepped up to him and requested a comparatively laborious piece of work had to be done in an hour. Thereupon the worker asks him whether he recently had read in the newspaper that it took a child only one week from procreation to birth, an all-time record. The foremen asked him whether he is out of his mind, a child still needs nine months until its birth.

“You see”, he answered, “and for this work we need half a day.” “THAT stresses me”, he says to his family. In order to have something fulfilling to do he meanwhile bought some donkeys of which he takes care in this spare time.

In the evening at the village pub, upon man-to-man talk, everybody is longing for the olden days. There is fear that traditions and therefore identity will vanish. Nobody was informed beforehand on the project’s impact on daily life. Suddenly two old ladies have to realize that the access to the retirement home has been shored and henceforth they need to be carried by bus to have lunch over there.

The investors however are still confident, as long as the Andermatt Swiss Alps Village enjoys the highest daily average of daily hours of sunshine in the valley, until five o’clock or even longer. The projected apartments are of triple-A-character, i.e. serviced apartments. However, with houses between 500.000 and 1.000.000 Swiss Francs they claim to offer something for everybody as well.

Meanwhile the inhabitants wonder whether the project pays for Andermatt at all. “What do they expect from nature?” they ask. And: “Are they interested in nature at all?” In the meantime there are considerations like: “Well, I have to admit I could leave the region just like that.” The grandfather of another family moved to Tessin after his retirement because he could not take it here anymore. Many others feel alike. “The canton even abated the capital gains tax for Sawiris – for ten years! Idiots like us however still have to pay it, that’s just not fair”, the regular’s tables states angrily. Meanwhile the building-owner are worried whether apartments with a size of 540 square meters of living space are big enough for prospective buyers.

“The worst moment was the minute they cut down the trees”, one of the residents say, who lives in a flat just opposite the permanent building lot. “They cut down the trees at a time where the birds breed.”

At the end of the documentary an elderly couple summarizes the situation to the point: “Many people wonder if that is really what they wanted?” “We think that the discrepancy is stressed too much. The discrepancy between the wealthy and those who should work”, one of the villagers says conclusively.

One may take comfort in the fact that in 2014 the investor’s plans still do not seem to meet the reality. There is a gaping void in the village at the end of the film. For a conclusion: the expected upswing is still far away.


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