Condense a 700-page, exciting biography to make a great 90' film.

Heinrich Zschokke is the great-great-great-grandfather of both Matthias and I, Adrian Zschokke. He turns two hundred and fifty years old in March 2021, reason for a big celebration. And reason for this film about him. Matthias, who has lived in Berlin for years, is a renowned writer like Heinrich in his days. He extracts from the exciting Zschokke biography of Werner Ort and from Zschokke’s «Selbstschau» film-scenes to bring the ancestor closer to us. I have been making films for 30 years: as a cameraman, among others in our joint films «Edvige Scimitt» - which was awarded «Best German Feature Film» by critics at the Berlinale - and in «Erhöhte Waldbrandgefahr» as cameraman and producer. In this new endeavor I try to set the documentary pillars. So, together we dare to approach the «big» Zschokke (after all his statue in Aarau is one of the biggest in Switzerland ;-)). The 90’ docufeature will premiere punctually on March 22, 2021, the 250th birthday of Johann HEINRICH Daniel ZSCHOKKE. To achieve this, we need every possible support. Thank you!

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The protagonist

Born 1771 in Magdeburg. His parents died early; he was taken care of by an older brother. At 17 he had had enough, he moved through the country with a theatre group. At 19 he began studying philosophy and theology in Frankfurt (Oder), graduating with a doctorate at the age of 21. At the age of 22 he wrote «Abaellino», a play that became so famous that even Goethe - against his will - had to have it performed in Weimar. At 24 he came to Switzerland, to Reichenau, where he became rector of the seminar. He commits himself to the Helvetic Republic, which the ruling class of Graubünden resented. So they put a bounty on Zschokke’s head. He flees on a raft down the Rhine to Bad Ragaz. In 1798, he comes to Aarau, then briefly the capital of «Switzerland». Zschokke becomes the Swiss government commissioner and is sent to all sorts of trouble spots. In Stans he negotiates with the French for the benefit of the Central Swiss, in Basel he mediates between the rural communities and the city, and he comes under fire several times. In 1801 he comes to Bern, where the famous poetic competition between Kleist, Wieland and Zschokke takes place, about who writes the «better» ZERBROCHENE KRUG. Kleist - unknown at the time - wins. In 1808 Zschokke moves to the Canton of Aargau, first to Biberstein Castle, where he meets his future wife Nanni Nüsperli, with whom he raises 13 children. He writes and writes: countless letters, novels, magazines. His «Schweizerbote» is extremely popular, but his commitment to popular education and freedom of the press is often censored. In 1815 he becomes a councilman in the canton of Aargau. In 1829 he withdraws from all public offices in protest against press censorship. 1848 he dies in the «Blumenhalde» in Aarau, which was built in 1817 according to Zschokke’s own plans. All in all: A life like a film. And now we want to shoot this film.

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The Zschokketag

On 1-12-19 we organize a meeting of all Zschokke descendants to be found. From the USA, from Djakarta, from all over Europe, South Africa and of course from Switzerland they all flock to Aarau, to the KUK, the «Kultur- und Kongresshaus». Various specialists give short speeches about our protagonist. Zschokkes songs – yes, HZ was a composer, too! - are performed as a WORLD PREMIERE. A short scene from his most famous play «Abaellino» is performed, a letter from Zschokke to his wife is read out. We shoot the feature part in 2020 to finish the film for his 250th birthday in 2021. The culture commissions we ask for support will decide only towards the end of this year. So, the Zschokketag is hanging in the air, but it is essential for the project. What we can shoot at this meeting will account for about a quarter of the finished film. That is why we are so much looking forward to your participation and support! Again, thank you very much!

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