Henry Brandt

Henry Brandt

Henry Brandt, who was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1921 and died in 1998 in the Cévennes, was first a self-taught photographer, then a filmmaker. All his work is driven by a humanist point of view, focusing on both local and distant issues, with an ongoing concern for the future of humanity. Through his lens, Brandt captured the fragmentation of society, to which he always strived to bring a sense of solidarity. Often made as a commission, his work is testament to a surprising aesthetic and poetic freedom.

In 1951, Brandt used his Bolex H16 camera for the first time to document the daily life of Valangin, the village in which he lived. Thanks to his links with the academic and artistic circles of Neuchâtel, he then left his teaching job and went to Saharan Africa as part of a project commissioned by the Musée d’ethnographie in Neuchâtel. Brandt brought back a large amount of work in various media, that was then used for audio reports, one film and a book of photographs. Screened at the Locarno festival in 1955, Les Nomades du soleil (The Nomads of the Sun) brought the filmmaker the recognition of his peers. Following this success, he was asked, in 1958, to oversee the ethnographic aspect of the widely acclaimed Les Seigneurs de la forêt (Masters of the Congo jungle), produced in collaboration with Heinz Sielmann and filmed in the Belgian Congo with the backing of King Leopold III. In 1960, he filmed Madagascar au bout du monde (Madagascar the other side of the world) for the Société des missions évangéliques in Paris. After returning to Neuchâtel, he then filmed Quand nous étions petits enfants (When we were children) for a year in La Brévine, then continued his commissioned work for the Red Cross, the Loterie Romande and the watchmaking factory Ebauche SA. In 1962, Henry Brandt, Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner approached the organizers of the 1964 national exhibition with the objective of using the event to showcase the new Swiss cinema. In the end, only one project, La Suisse s’interroge (Switzerland ponders), was backed by the exhibition management and entrusted to Henry Brandt, to whom it brought national recognition. Following this success, he embarked, commissioned by the World Health Organization, on an ambitious project depicting humanity and entitled Voyage chez les vivants (Travels among the living). The result of two years of traveling the world and a large amount of time devoted to editing, this highly anticipated film did not meet with the success expected. In the early 1970s, eager to find new outlets, Brandt turned to French-speaking Swiss television, with which he had a difficult relationship, due to the fast production turnaround imposed by this media. The last part of his life as a filmmaker was devoted to the theme of old age. His last feature film to be released in cinemas, Le Dernier Printemps (The Last Spring), questions the way the elderly were left on the periphery of Western society.

Throughout his career, Brandt made documentary and commissioned films and only ventured into fiction once, for the 1964 national exhibition. His work is characterized by his constant switching between media, addressing local issues, questioning the plentifulness of Swiss society, and exploring distant lands during his various trips abroad.

Gabrielle Duboux (GD) and Loïc Salomé (LS)

Portraits d’Henry Brandt (en)

1921

Born on July, 25 in La Chaux-de-Fonds

1939

Travels to the Balkans and in Turkey

1942

Trained as an observer at the Swiss Airforce training school

1943

Mobilized as an observer in the Swiss air force (1943–1945)

1946

Travels to Lapland

1949

BA in Humanities at the University of Neuchâtel

1950

Teaches French in La Chaux-de-Fonds, then Neuchâtel (1950–1953)

1951

Travels to Spain and Portugal

1953

Travels to Africa (1953–1954) as part of the 8th mission of the Musée d’ethnographie in Neuchâtel (Sahara with Peul and Batammariba tribes and Ivory Coast) and films Les Nomades du soleil

1956

Travels to Belgian Congo (1956–1957)

Nomades du soleil (book of photographs, Guilde du Livre)

1957

Exhibits his photographs as part of the Sahara 57 exhibition at the Musée d’ethnographie in Neuchâtel

1959

Travels to Madagascar

Pays de Neuchâtel (book of photographs, Griffon publishers)

1961

Creates the production company "Henry Brandt Production et Réalisation de films – Cortaillod".

Voile d’argent award at the 14th edition of the Locarno Festival for Quand nous étions petits enfants.

Suggests the creation of a series of documentary films, with Alain Tanner and Claude Goretta, to the management of the future Swiss National Exhibition in Lausanne in 1964.

Travels to Niger with Jean Rouch.

1962

Participates in the foundation of the Association suisse des réalisateurs de films

1964

Participates in Expo 64, the Swiss National Exhibition, Lausanne

Films Opération Banyarwanda in Congo and Burundi

1966

World tour to film Voyage chez les vivants (India, Thailand, Sarawak, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii, U.S.A., then London and Moscow)

1967

Continues his tour of the world in Senegal and U.S.A.

1968

Ends his world tour in Bratsk, Siberia, then edits the film in Geneva

1969

Member of the Commission fédérale du cinéma from 1969 to 1972, as a representative of VSF (Association suisse des producteurs de films)

1970

Screening of Voyage chez les vivants at the Cannes Film Festival

L’Aventure des hommes (book of photographs, Mondo)

1972

First collaboration with the French-speaking Swiss television

1975

Focuses mainly on old age and films Le Dernier Printemps

1977

Films the Molécules educational programme with Rafel Carreras and Jacqueline Brandt

1982

Films Nous étions les rois du monde. Chronique de l’année 1983 au Val-de-Travers (1982–1983)

1998

Dies on July 26 in Saint-Ambroix (Gard, France)

1952

Valangin: découverte et présentation d’un bourg, Switzerland

1955

Les Nomades du soleil, Switzerland

Les Hommes des châteaux, Switzerland

1958

Les Seigneurs de la forêt, Heinz Sielmann and Henry Brandt, Belgium

1960

Madagascar au bout du monde, Switzerland

1961

Quand nous étions petits enfants, Switzerland

1962

La Chance des autres, Switzerland

1964

Les Hommes de la montre, Switzerland

La Suisse s’interroge, Switzerland
WITH Corinne Coderey, Bernard Junod, Christophe Brandt

Opération Banyarwanda, Switzerland

1968

Wonderen van het Afrikaanse would (Forêt secrète d’Afrique), Heinz Sielmann, in collaboration with Henry Brandt, Belgium

1970

Voyage chez les vivants - L’Aventure des hommes, Switzerland

1973

Terre à vendre, Switzerland

1977

Le Dernier Printemps, Switzerland

Paul Chaudet, Vigneron, Conseiller d’Etat, Conseiller fédéral, Président de la Confédération, le 16 mars 1976 – Portrait based on extracts of the film Le Dernier Printemps by Henry Brandt (1977), Plans-Fixes (1976), Switzerland

Charles-Frédéric Fauquex, Vigneron, Conseiller aux Etats, Président du Conseil des Etats, le 16 mars 1976 (1976) – Portrait based on extracts of the film Le Dernier Printemps by Henry Brandt (1977), Plans-Fixes (1977), Switzerland

Eudoxie, Switzerland

1979

Le Bâton et la Carotte, Switzerland

1981

Jamais je ne t’oublierai, Switzerland

1985

Nous étions les rois du monde. Chronique de l’année 1983 au Val-de-Travers, Switzerland

1987

Le Blé des pharaons, Switzerland

1972

Chronique de la planète bleue, TSR, Switzerland :
  Les Ombres du bout du monde
  Mon prochain s’appelle Milliard
  Atteindre l’An 2100
  La Route de la famine
  La Bataille de la malaria
  Suman ou la Paix de l’esprit
  Hiroshima, ou des Hommes et des souris
  Les Paysannes de Casamance
  Joseph ou les Commodités de la ville
  Bratsk, Sibérie, An 15
  Les Enfants de Ramanagaram
  Nini, de San Francisco, ou le Refus de l’héritage
  Voici l’homme!

1973

S. Corinna Bille et Maurice Chappaz, TSR, Switzerland

La Maison ouverte, TSR, Switzerland

1977

Molécules, 1977–1982, Rafel Carreras et Jacqueline Brandt, TSR, Switzerland