A film in 4,500 frames

Swiss Post is committed to film and culture. This year, it is supporting not only the Locarno Film Festival, but also Valentin Merz’s film project. With postcards and Mexican “organilleros” as the stars.

Stefan Kern

Rich Content Section

Plush monkey sitting in front of a barrel organ

A warm wind blows through Locarno’s narrow streets, carried by melancholic melodies. People look at each other somewhat puzzled. “Are those really barrel organs?” you can occasionally hear festival-goers asking, as the sound slowly gets louder.

From the screen to the streets

There is some justification for the astonishment. Not only are barrel organs long obsolete in our country, but on this evening they are played by people in uniform. Anyone who saw Valentin Merz’s film when it premiered on 3 August will know why. “Those are the ‘organilleros’ from the film ‘Mi organillo’!” a festival-goer is heard saying in amazement.

The organ players slowly make their way through the crowd, handing out postcards. But what do postcards have to do with organ players from Mexico? In the latest film by Valentin Merz, the “organilleros” lead us through poignant places with their music. During the festival, the protagonists of the film parade through the streets of Locarno with their organs, distributing a total of 4,500 postcards. Each postcard represents a different moment in the film. When strung together, they show the film in thousands of frames. In this way, festival-goers not only immerse themselves in foreign worlds on the big screen, but also become part of history for the evening.

Visitor of the Film Festival writes a postcard

From another era

The song La Paloma is the film’s soundtrack. Merz explains: “This is a popular 19th century Spanish song that has been reinterpreted by various artists. The La Paloma dove is also a sign of peace.” 

Both the song and the musical instruments seem to belong to another era. In Switzerland, barrel organs can be found only in museums. In Mexico City, however, they are part and parcel of the urban landscape. The instruments, which date back to the early 20th century, are played by members of the “Unión de Organilleros”. Their distinguishing feature is their uniform.

Organ player in typical uniform
© Andrea Film

But why Mexico? Merz explains: “I was asked to create a short film that could be both a movie and a series of postcards. The project took me to Xochmilco, south of Mexico City. The name comes from Nahuatl and means field of flowers. It's a place inhabited by folkloric culture, celebrations, trashy parties and poetic landscapes. It's familiar to me and probably unknown to the Locarno audience. It's like sending a postcard from a place I love to a dear friend.“ Through his project, Valentin Merz shows that music and postcards can bring people together in a touching way – around the globe, and in the most diverse cultures.

Boats on a river
People are partying on countless boats. On the water people dance, laugh, and eat. © Andrea Film
Young people dancing on a boat
© Andrea Film
A man cooking on a boat
© Andrea Film
Two musicians sing and play the guitar
© Andrea Film
Puppets hanging in a tree
On the "Isla de las Muñecas" hundreds of dolls are hanging in the trees. They are supposed to calm the soul of a dead girl. © Andrea Film

Swiss Post: committed to film and culture

Swiss Post has been the official sponsor of the Locarno Film Festival since 2002. What first began as logistics sponsorship has now turned into a broad commitment to cinema. From this year, Swiss Post is supporting BaseCamp and the projects resulting from it in addition to the festival. Over the course of the festival, BaseCamp offers young artists and film-makers a place to bring their ideas to life. The collaboration with Valentin Merz also came about through the support of BaseCamp. “We are delighted to be part of BaseCamp and the Locarno Film Festival and to be able to support young artists through our commitment,” says Swiss Post’s Kim Haldemann, who is responsible for the collaboration (more about BaseCamp in the box).

Each postcard is unique

Back in the streets of Locarno, the postcards are capturing people’s attention. So much so that many of them don’t even notice that the procession is slowly moving on. The melodies fade away amidst the rumble of voices in the Piazza Grande, as the gong announces the next performance. The postcards quickly disappear into trouser and jacket pockets. And while the next story is beginning to unfold on the screen, “Mi organillo’s” story may be coming to an end for another day. “It’s the visitors who determine the outcome. Or rather, the ‘outcomes’ – because each postcard is unique and has only been printed once,” says Merz.

«Mi organillo» – watch the full movie here

Mi organillo the film

Hub for creatives: BaseCamp at the Locarno Film Festival

For 11 days, BaseCamp serves as a hub that young artists can use to visit the Locarno Film Festival and realize their projects. Swiss Post supports both the festival and BaseCamp as an official partner. The hub in Losone brings together around 200 young artists between the ages of 18 and 30 from all over the world and from a variety of artistic backgrounds. They were selected in advance and are each preparing an art project. During the festival, they can showcase their talent, share their ideas, leverage synergies and launch new projects. BaseCamp is also accessible to external persons. More information about BaseCamp:

Artists at BaseCamp in Losone

written by

Stefan Kern