In 1984, documentary filmmaker Hugo Zemp traveled to Muotatal in the Pre-Alps region of Switzerland to create a nonfiction feature on the traditional local style of yodeling known as “yootz,” which differed in many aspects from the more theatrical yodeling presentations that most people associate with Switzerland. After restoring his film, Zemp decided to return to Muotatal in 2014 as a follow-up, and he connected with Bernhard Betschart, who was a seven years old in Zemp’s original production.
The grown-up Betschart had recently achieved a minor celebrity as a country music singer in a Swiss television version of “The Voice,” and the film offers a rather lengthy consideration of how he lived in the United States and Canada and came to learn English and appreciate the joys of Nashville’s music output. But Betschart never gave up his love of yodeling, and he teamed with five friends to create a traditional yootzing group called Natur Pur.
Although Betschart is a charismatic presence with a genuine music talent, it is difficult not to wonder whether Zemp’s film would have worked better in a more compact short film format rather than in a 71-minute production that often feels like a home movie for Betschart and his friends. And for those who are unfamiliar with yodeling, one can charitably state this film offers too much of a good thing.
Students of Swiss folk culture may be enchanted, but for others this film will certain feel like it needs more cowbell.