A country without documentaries is like a family without a photo album” the Chilean director and scriptwriter Patricio Guzmàn used to say. is quote can be found on the website of ZeLIG, the documentary, television and new media school established in 1988 that has made the training of professionals who tell stories about reality its mission.
The school, which teaches in three languages, is one of the few in Europe to exclusively deal in documentary films.
Since 1990 it has been directed by Heidi Gronauer who is also responsible for one of the school’s showpiece projects:
Eso- Doc – European Social Documentary, the MEDIA program training proposal which focuses on a documentary genre that can be easily adapted to di erent platforms and is concerned with social themes.
ZeLIG has a multicultural and multilingual climate, and it is no coincidence that it is based in Bolzano, the capital of a bilingual province, a bridge between Italian and German culture, a region characterized by a confluence of central European sensitivity and a Mediterranean lifestyle.
The fact of being a halfway land, situated at an equal distance from Munich and Milan, and bilingual, has contributed to the South Tyrol’s propensity for co-producing with German- speaking countries, thanks to the advantage of knowing both languages and both production systems. Being able to co-produce with German countries is a plus that is also useful when attempting to access the financing provided by German funds and broadcasters which, for the time being, are still willing to invest in documentaries.
But local documentary production is certainly also heavily influenced by the strong links that the region’s inhabitants have with nature, traditions and the history of mountain folk . Often film directors from South Tyrol who live abroad maintain strong links with their homeland, with the nature, the mountains and their origins so they repeatedly go back home to tell even local stories.
This is what happened to Hannes Lang, class of 1981, from Bressanone, who le South Tyrol to study at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne but who, for his first cinema documentary, “Peak – un mondo al limite” (co-produced by Movimento Film, Una Film and ZDF – Goethe Institut award winner at the DOK Festival Leipzig 2011), decided to talk about the Alpine landscape and how mass tourism is modifying and degrading it.
After having taken on a more international viewpoint with “I want to see the manager”, co-produced amongst others by his Petrolio Film with Bolzano’s Miramonte, he has once again returned to the Alpine world with “Riafn” (which, in the dialect of South Tyrol, means “to call”, from the German “rufen”).
This project, currently in the pre- production phase and also supported by the South Tyrol’s Film Commission, will look at the lives of farmers and shepherds in the alpine areas of the eastern South Tyrol, Piemonte, France and Switzerland.
One of the latest works by Andreas Pichler, the director, producer and filmmaker from Bolzano, a Zelig graduate, also focuses on the alpine region. In “Von Männern und Vätern”, Pichler together with director Martin Prinz, attempts to understand the role of men within the alpine community today.
IDM FILM FUND&COMMISSION/The Point of Departure
Paolo Di Maira
“The great documentary-making tradition of South Tyrol was the point of departure for our work developing the audiovisual industry in the region”: Christiana Wertz, director of IDM Film Fund & Commission states with conviction. “When we took our first steps, 6 and a half years ago,” she explains, “all the professionals in the field came from an experience in documentaries”.
Over the years the Film Fund & Commission has funded 182 projects, 54 of which, around 30%, are documentaries. Out of the total of € 32 million disbursed by the Fund, around 3 went to documentaries, approximately 9%.
Although the gures show that this genre is not a priority for the Film Commission’s strategies, Christiana Wertz is keen to emphasize: “it might not seem much in percentage terms, but it is a very respectable figure, higher than for similar funds both in Germany and in Italy”.
A recent initiative of the South Tyrol’s Film Commission also involves a crossover with documentaries: Final Touch- Intense Feedback from Experts. This aims to accompany filmmakers in the nal phase of development of their project and, despite being open to all genres, mainly attracts documentaries.