Fifty children of mountain farmers, six miles of walking to school, a childhood in the heart of Switzerland. We accompany the children early in the morning, plodding through deep snow to the village school, back to the farms in the afternoon, where every child has its chores. At an early age the youngest generation is initiated to the livelihood of mountain farming.
The story takes us from farm to farm and introduces us to an isolated, but also sheltered life. Through the eyes of the children we experience closely what it means if suddenly a wolf turns up or a hawk gets the chickens or how the children face the inclement whims of the weather.
For 365 days the director and writer Alice Schmid accompanied the mountain children of the municipality of Romoos with her camera in the craggy, wild landscape around Mount Napf, to the mythical chasm of Aenziloch, where according to legend thunder is created and demons are dwelling to the present day. She created powerful images of the annual cycle in the “Wild West” of Lucerne.
scene Mount Napf
Mount Napf is in the middle of the UNESCO Biosphere of Vale Entlebuch, in the heart of Switzerland, between the Cantons of Berne and Lucerne. This mountain can only be reached on foot. It presents a unique panorama of the Bernese Alps, the Jura mountains and the hilly midlands, with visibility in clear weather all the way to Mount Uetliberg near Zurich. From their fathers the children of Mount Napf learn the ancient craft of charcoal-burning, generating supplementary income in the rugged and untrodden landscape of the Napf area.
Legend has it that thunder with its feared storms arises in the mythical chasm of Aenziloch. Evildoers end up there after their death and to atone have to heave up rocks. The children only go as far as the crest of this 200 m high rock face. They do not dare to look down for fear they might be turned into demons themselves. The famous director and actor Bernhard Wicki, Oscar-nominated for his film THE BRIDGE, was himself a native of Romoos. He celebrated his sixtieth birthday on Mount Napf, and after dinner in the Hotel “Kreuz” he went hunting with the mayor.
statements: The Children of Mount Napf
KILIAN (6) When we slaughter animals, we must first chop off their heads with a bang.
DARIO (6) In the morning the rooster wakes me up. Cockadoodledoo!
THOMAS (10) We catch mice only six days a week. Never on Sundays and holidays.
ERICH (12) I think I know someone who could shoot the wolf.
ROBIN (11) You always have to carry a rock or a stick.
MICHAELA (11) Romoos is super. There are one bakery, one post office, one school.
CAROLIN (10) We should make Romoos more famous. Like Hollywood.
THOMAS (10) If Carlo Janka or Simon Ammann lived here, Romoos would be crowded.
JANNIC (12) If I could rule the world, I would always let it snow, drink Red Bull and leave everything to God.
SEVERIN (11) A miss cow has a good pelvis and a straight back. The udder is well attached to the belly.
DARIO (12) We burn charcoal, because dad already did it.
RETO (13) They say that storms arise from the gorge of Aenziloch. The valley gentlemen are banished down there, because they did evil things, oppressed people. They must heave up rocks. Whenever they nearly make it to the top, the rocks roll down again. That’s how thunder is created.
MARKUS (13) At night we lock up the sheep, because the wolf is around. When it sees a flock of sheep, it tears a number of them. Not just one, it eats from all of them.
THOMAS (10) Before we make hay, we look for bottle caps in the grass. Otherwise we must slaughter an injured cow again.
JULIA (9) Lightning always strikes at the highest point, because that’s the shortest way.
THOMAS (10) The apples get red from the sun. This is how they get their redness. If you take away the outer ones, the inner ones catch the light, too.
CÉLINE (10) You must sing standing. If you sit, there is a different sound.
JULIA (9) In my dream I had only one chicken left. The hawk was there, and I hit it with a stick. Then it pecked me and took my chicken.
Alice Schmid, Director and Writer
Alice Schmid tells stories from all over the world, with the focus always on the children. Her work has won international awards (Gold in Biarritz, the Erich Kaestner Prize, a nomination for Grimme). On Swiss Television she reaches over 600,000 viewers. With her first novel “Thirteen Is My Number”, also set around Mount Napf, she made it onto the Swiss Bestseller List.
In every one of her works so far, Alice Schmid has been dealing with children of this world. “Say No” (1993) is a film classic on child abuse. In Liberia and Sierra Leone (1999/2002) she featured child soldiers. In „Every Drop for the Future“ (1996) she accompanied a Bolivian girl on her two-hour walk to school. In “Letters to Grown-Ups” (1994) she portrayed a childhood in the mine-fields of Cambodia. With her first feature film “The Children of Mount Napf”, she is now returning to Switzerland, to the epicenter of her first, direct experiences, to the region that is also the setting of her successful literary debut “Thirteen Is My Number” (2011).
statement by Alice Schmid, Director
"I had always wanted to make a film around Mount Napf. The place exerts a magic attraction on me. I have an old farmhouse there. I can hardly bear staying in it alone at night; I am scared. After over twenty years of filmmaking in Africa, Asia and South America, I have finally succeeded in returning to this place. I was at work with my camera for 365 days. The heroes are the children of Mount Napf.”