Surprise’s new short film tells stories of vendors

By Jill Shaughnessy

Swiss street paper Surprise has produced a short film that tells the story of four of its vendors and the hardships, tragedies and losses they have endured in their very different lives.

The individual behind the project, Jamie Hänni, was first introduced to Surprise in the summer of 2018 when he completed his community service in the magazine’s sales department. Hänni’s daily tasks presented him with the subject of poverty and the tragic fate that goes with it. He was deeply moved by the stories of the individuals who sold Surprise and decided to capture their lives in a short film.

When Hänni told his friends, filmmakers Jonas Humbel and Kern Singh, about his idea, the small project turned into an extensive production with around 40 volunteers. Filming in an empty warehouse, Hӓnni strived for the perfect lighting, musical score, and shots. Hänni ultimately decided on completing a “one-shot recording” to capture his scene. This meant that even the smallest details had to be coordinated so that the final sequence would be smooth and coherent.

Andy Jahn, who runs marketing and communications at Surprise, wrote that “the vendors played the most difficult role: themselves”. The film first shows Elmi, who lost his best friend while fleeing to Switzerland. Then the audience learns about Tatyana, who struggles to make ends meet even with numerous jobs. And Zaynab, who underwent female circumcision as a child. Finally, Hänni presents Ändu, a recovering alcoholic. The end result merges these four genuine perspectives beautifully.

“Despite everything, I was impressed by their strength. They are much more than just a product of their past,” says Jamie Hänni.