Events - 13.10.2011 - 00:00 

Book and film about Dr. Nils Jent

Economist Dr. Nils Jent inspired two young filmmakers and an author to produce two new works. The book, “A Life Close to the Limit” and the movie “Breathing Under Water” were presented in St.Gallen.


11 October 2011. Sunday morning, October 9, 2011: There is a queue in front of the entrance to the Lokremise art house cinema in St.Gallen. Dr. Nils Jent welcomes about 100 invited guests, family, friends and colleagues. They wait expectantly for the presentation of the recently published book and the film, which premiered at the Zurich Film Festival, that center around the 49-year-old economist. Next to the cinema’s entrance, author Röbi Keller has displayed copies of the biography. Jent has signed them with a stamp repeating his motto: “There’s no such thing as impossible”.

Life’s motto “There’s no such thing as impossible”
Dr. Jent was born twice, the second time as a multi-handicapped person, caused by major heart failure during an operation after a severe traffic accident when he was 19. His mental strength helped him shape his second life according to his own ideas. As a lecturer and researcher at University of St.Gallen, he encourages other people with disabilities. Together with his colleague, psychologist Regula Dietsche, and the Center for Disability and Integration (CDI-HSG), he shows the benefits for everyone of successfully integrating people with disabilities into society and the workplace.


“With his enormous perseverance and will power, Nils Jent is a role model for me”, his thesis supervisor, Prof. Dr. Martin Hilb, said at the book-launching event, which was moderated by DRS1 editor Christine Hubacher. The brilliant spirit of his former student impressed him from the beginning, Hilb continued. In his Ph.D. thesis, which Jent finished in 2002, he developed a concept that had been missing until then. It aims at the ideal use of the skills and talents offered by the variety and diversity of employees. Through his experience as a physically disabled person, he knows which obstacles have to be conquered in everyday working life. In his discipline, applied disability studies, he demonstrates that the integration of people with disabilities into the workforce is beneficial for the work culture and can contribute to companies’ added value.

Success through a “policy of small steps”

In his book “Dr. Nils Jent – A Life Close to the Limit”, Röbi Koller writes about the barriers that have to be overcome every day by people with disabilities. He describes how Jent fought his way back to life after the accident with a “policy of small steps”. After waking from the coma, he initially could communicate only by blinking. He had to gain respect for himself – for example, by challenging the chief physicians to a game of chess and winning one after the other. “There are many stories like the ’Chess Story‘ in Nils’ life”, said Koller. The author also noticed Jent’s powers of self-assertion during the editorial revision of the biography: “In the second part, which is about Nils’ field of work, diversity, it could not be precise enough for him – we discussed some passages long and hard until we found the best wording.” The book and the film developed independently between 2009 and 2011. Koller’s editorial work and his research thus became part of the film, as well.

Award at Zurich Film Festival 2011

The up-and-coming directors Stefan Muggli and HSG graduate Andri Hinnen portrayed Jent’s life in impressive images depicting a typical working day of the researcher. Super 8 recordings by Jent’s father, Cuno Jent, gave an impression of his life before the accident. The filming took two years. What was originally planned as a brief portrait and part of Hinnen’s master’s thesis eventually became the 90-minute documentary “Breathing Under Water – The Second Life of Dr. Nils Jent”. The directors did research into the family archive, talked to friends and former teachers and headmasters and accompanied Jent in his everyday life. “It did not seem worth filming at all for our protagonist”, Hinnen said. They had to convince Jent at first that for the audience, his every day life bears witness to the high performance he compels of himself continuously. The jury is in: The documentary received the audience award at the Zurich Film Festival. “Breathing Under Water” shows what can be accomplished if one uses the power of cooperation.

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