Supertext localizes multi-award winning documentary for the movie theaters

Verdinger [Servant], which traces the fate of a boy who became an indentured servant, is a moving piece of film. Supertext played a role in bringing the motion picture to life – a first for the agency.

“I was emaciated, run down and dirty. I wasn’t a person anymore. They fed me only as much as I needed to avoid dying.” Alfred’s life is the result of one of the darkest chapters in Switzerland’s history. Children were torn from their families without so much as a court order, taken elsewhere and forced to do manual labor, or simply abused.

Conveying tragedy through language

The multi-award-winning documentary by Saschko Steven Schmid gets under its audience’s skin and doesn’t shy away from showing what happened to these children. At the same time, the movie aims to be a mouthpiece for all those who suffered this fate – something which has much more of an impact when their voices are represented in multiple languages. This is why the producers planned to have the film translated from the outset.

The movie project took four years from start to finish. Actors were used to portray key scenes, but much of the movie is narrated by Alfred, who talks about his experiences, his hopes and his fears. Rather than resorting to dubbing, the decision was made to retain the film’s original soundtrack, as this would build a stronger connection with the audience.

“I initially wondered if dubbing would cause the movie to lose some of its authenticity. Having subtitles sidestepped this issue.”

Saschko Steven Schmid, director of “Verdinger”

Supertext was chosen to be the production’s language services provider. With longstanding experience in providing subtitles for media firms, cooking apps and supermarket chains, it was high time for the agency to make its bow in the world of motion picture.

From dialect to subtitles

Alfred speaks a Bernese German dialect, which needed to be subtitled in French, Italian and English. The first step was a transcript in standard German. Supertext then added time codes, which are used to indicate when the subtitles appear and disappear on screen.

The German text was then sent to the translators to bring it to life in their native tongues. They were bound by the timings, text lengths and line breaks – a challenge that often meant they had to get creative with their solutions. Find out what this process involves here.

The following key scene shows the extent of the work involved:

    Original Standard German English French Italian
    00:08:38.642 –> 00:08:43.225
    A das magi mi natürli haargenau bsinne. Gse no hüt das Bild. Ich mag mich genau daran
    erinnern, ich sehe es noch heute,
    Something I remember – I can still see it today – Je m’en rappelle comme si c’était hier Però mi ricordo bene,
    rivedo ancora la scena davanti a me,
    00:08:43.250 –> 00:08:45.028
    De Vater wo s Päckli mir git, s Velo cheert. wie mein Vater
    mir mein Paket gab,
    is how my father
    gave me my parcel,
    comment mon père m’a donné ma boîte, che mio padre mi
    diede il pacchetto
    00:08:45.048 –> 00:08:48.603
    a sich drückt, s Velo cheert und furt. sein Fahrrad an sich
    drückte, umkehrte und fortging.
    pulled his bike to him,
    turned around and left.
    a enfourché son vélo, a
    fait demi-tour et est parti.
    prese la bici,
    si girò e se ne andò.

The finished subtitles appear in the movie as permanently visible open captions. And the message they convey is now read by audiences all over the world.

Verdinger is available to watch online – stream it here.

Video via Vimeo

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