Goethe-Institut German Film: The Foster Boy (Der Verdingbub)
February 24, 2013
Between 1800 and the 1950s, Swiss authorities forcefully placed hundred thousands of orphans, illegitimate children and kids from broken homes as laborers on farms. Officially coined as a measure to battle child poverty, this practice eventually instituted a modern form of slavery. Protagonist of the (fictional) story of "Der Verdingbub" is 12-year-old orphan Max, who is sold by the local minister for a basket of food to the Bösiger family, who own a mountain farm. Max' initial hope of finally finding a loving home is brutally shattered: The farmer and his wife treat Max like livestock, and their son Jacob humiliates and abuses him. Only the local teacher notices the child suffering on the farm. By fostering his musical talent, she tries to encourage Max and teach him self-respect. When Berteli, a 15-year-old girl, is also placed on the farm, her budding friendship with Max leads to a catastrophe.