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The Trento festival from 1952 to present day

It was 1952. Amedeo Costa from Rovereto, an entrepreneur deeply interested in patronage and voluntary work, was Consigliere Centrale of Club Alpino Italiano (Central Council Member of the Italian Alpine Club) and from 1953 was deputy President General. At that time he had responsibility for the organisation of supplies and communications for the great Italian expedition to K2. From 13th to 21st September 1952, to coincide with the celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Società Alpinisti Trentini, the glorious SAT (the Society of Trentino Mountaineers), Trento hosted the 64th National Congress of CAI (Club Alpino Italiano). While organising this event, Amedeo Costa’s creativity blossomed. A brilliant idea was born and its brightness still shines after 57 years, more vivid than ever: the Trento Festival of Mountain Cinema.

Prior to the launch of the Festival a Central Committee for Alpine Cinema had already been established within CAI, in 1946 with Guido Maggiani from Turin as its president. In that year, the ‘First National Competition of sub-standard gauge Alpine Cinema’ took place, undoubtedly the forerunner of Trento Festival. Many of the 20 films in this competition had been produced by CAI-UGET of Turin, ICAL of Erba, and the Division of Milan. Botanica a corda doppia by Cai-Uget won the first prize. Virtuosismi dello sport bianco was regarded as the best film on skiing techniques. Acque was the best documentary film. Scuola di roccia a Merano was the best 8 mm film.

From the following year, CAI began organising the presentation of Alpine films in several Italian towns. In 1948 the Istituto Luce also got involved with a film library of twelve mountain films available to rent out. In the meantime, other films were being distributed by Cai-Uget and the Divisions of Milan, Treviso and Rome. In 1951, CAI head office restructured its film Committee, chose Turin as its location (later moving to Milan) and its chairmanship, unfortunately for a short period only, was given to Ettore Giraudo and then to Enrico Rolandi. People thought that mountain films could help circulate CAI ideals. At first a small film library was established with the aim of gathering Alpine films and presenting them in the Divisions and Alpine circles in general.
At that time, assisted by the loyal Rolandi, we find Amedeo Costa, a CAI man par excellence benefiting from the Trentino operation. He made a proposal to SAT, which had taken up the organisation of the 64th Congress of CAI: to announce a mountain film festival for the occasion.

That is how assisted by some friends Costa ‘invented’, the Festival del Cinema di Montagna ‘Città di Trento’ (Mountain Film Festival ‘City of Trento’). On the memorable poster of the new Festival it was stated: ‘C.A.I. FILM – Primo Concorso Internazionale della Cinematografia Alpina a passo ridotto. Trento 14-18 settembre 1952’ (‘CAI FILM – First International Competition of sub-standard gauge Alpine Cinema. Trento 14-18 September 1952’). The first festival of its kind in the world was born, taking secondary place only if compared to the festival in Venice. A managing committee was immediately established. It consisted of Amedeo Costa as President, Sergio Tei as deputy President, Enrico Rossaro Secretary-Director, Mario Pedrotti, Remo Pedrotti, Ettore Scotoni, Enrico Stefan and Giovanni Strobele as Advisors. The Municipality of Trento actively and enthusiastically participated. The link with them was a great coup. Without being critical of others, we wonder: which Italian city, which Italian province, which Italian region could have granted CAI such a fruitful, loyal, faithful and lasting alliance? The Festival is a CAI affiliation indeed (giving financial support and advice), however we have to point out that without a ‘father’ like the Municipality of Trento and a ‘grandfather’ like the Autonomous Province, financial problems would probably have prevented the Festival from having a long life.

Let’s go back to 1952. Once the idea was found, it was necessary to proceed with the organisational and artistic phases, and then with the most impressive one, the presentation of the Alpine and mountain films. Rolandi went to Paris to meet Samivel (nick-name of Paul Marcel Gayet-Tancrède), and then contacted mountaineer-directors from Innsbruck, Munich and Zürich, who were invited to Trento by the enterprising Costa. Only a few, had good experience: such as Luis Trenker, the athletic mountaineer and actor from the Gardena Valley (who did not bring any films); Severino Casara, the romantic and inventive mountaineer, writer and director from Vicenza (attending with Il Campanile più bello del mondo and Le imprese di Emilio Comici); Mario Fantin, the great operator and director from Bologna (with Abbecedario di pietra) and Samivel, the French director, writer and illustrator (in competition with Cimes et merveilles).

The others, maybe less known but still significant, were Theo Hörmann, Austrian, attending with no less than three films; J. Jongen, Belgian; Roger Frison Roche, Gorge Strouvè, J.J. Languepin, Iean Michelon and Guy Poulet, all from France, as was Samivel; Fosco Maraini, Vincenzo Gatti, Adriano Zancanella, M. Alberini, Renato Gaudioso, Rizzotti-Depaoli, Giuseppe Marzani, Leone Donò, Renzo Zampiero, Gastone Capitano, Ghedina-Menardi were all Italian, as were the three film studios Incom, Dolomiti Film, Solaria Film, and the afor-mentioned Trenker, Casara and Fantin.  SAT President Boni provided some funding and the deputy mayor Ducati was really ‘generous with encouragement’. The local news did not elaborate on this, but we think that the ‘encouragement’ was in cash. Trento citizens and people from nearby towns were massively supportive of the event, so much so that it was called ‘wonder of wonders’.

The baptism took place in the most beautiful venue in Trento, the Teatro Sociale (the main theatre). Contrasting with this, films were screened at the Astra, which at the time was in a suburban area. Only in 1955 were the presentations moved to the Teatro Sociale, where the Competition became a Festival and where it remained until 1987. Celebrations were enhanced with local products: precious demi-sec white wine and ‘robust vintage teroldego to be served with a dish of carne salada’. The fruit table was ‘laden with delicious Trentino apples’. The mayor Nilo Piccoli, and his municipality accepted their new paternity without hesitation, which CAI was very happy about. It must be said that, even though it attracted some scepticism, this was a love match – love for mountains – which it still is today. The 1952 edition was an immediate success. Seven countries participated with 39 films. The famous and eclectic Samivel was first with his fantastic film, Cimes et merveilles.
In 2008 there were 325 films brought to Trento from every corner of the world. The TrentoFilmfestival (to use its current name and logo) now receives no less than 7000 film clips. Its film library counts about 2600 films, many of which are licensed for lending to CAI Divisions and public and private bodies for presentation evenings (charging a small fee).

To this day, there have been 17 Presidents: Costa, Biondo, Franceschini, Belli, Morghen, Benedetti, Chabod, Spagnolli, Zecchinelli, Tononi, Priotto, Goio, Bramanti, Sottile, Visintainer, Zandonella (personal record for the longest presidency of 6 years and two mandates, the second proposed by the Municipality of Trento) with Bonapace President since 7th November 2008. There have been 15 Deputy Presidents: Tei, Belli, Costa, Chabod, Benedetti, Spagnolli, Zecchinelli, Tononi, Priotto, Goio, Bramanti, Visintainer, Caola, Andreaus and Zandonella. Spagnolli’s Presidency (1970 to 2002) leaders have taken turns to lead the Festival: one year a person from CAI was chosen, the following year a person from the Municipality of Trento. In addition there have been 3 secretary-directors (Rossaro, Preve, Grassi), 4 directors (Grassi, Zanotto, Bozza, Cembran), 1 single director (Cassarà), 2 organising directors (Bombarda, Golin) and 2 artistic directors (Biamonti in 1987 and Nichetti from 2005). Except during the first three years and in 2002, the deputy Presidents (two from 1959 to 1967; one for the remaining years) have assisted the President.

In 1972, the Festival did not take place, because the autumn event was postponed to take place the following spring. The team is even bigger if you consider the participation, from time to time, of about 480 Councillors and of 118 Auditors (none until 1954, no less than 5 in 1955, only one in 1977-78, none from 1979 to 1983, then usually 3). From 1954 a multitude of important collaborators have worked for the Festival, some contributing memorable initiatives, professionalism and organisational and artistic abilities. Among them are secretarial officers and staff, managers, technicians, division managers, many journalists attending the Press Office, 268 experts for the Selecting Board and 138 high calibre members of the International Jury, people such as Dino Buzzati, Giulio Cesare Castello, Fernaldo Di Giammatteo, Maurice Herzog, Marcel Ichac, Fosco Maraini, Giuseppe Mazzotti, Ermanno Olmi, Samivel, Christophe Profit, Patrick Berhault, Bruno Bozzetto, Claudio G. Fava, Stefan Glowacz, Toni Hiebeler, Kurt Diemberger, Maurizio Nichetti, Maurizio Zaccaro and Siba Shakib. Several other professional enthusiasts of the Festival have participated, including five jury members in pectore this year.

A lot of people think that Montagnalibri, the flagship of TrentoFilmfestival, and the biggest world exhibition of mountain books, was born in the late 1980s. In fact it was lavishly organised for the first time in 1956 with the presence of 99 publishing houses from 11 countries and with 675 books. It was a big success, even though a complete novelty. It was the first of the many Italian and world events of this kind that followed. Unfortunately, after a few years, the exhibition stopped because of financial problems, but started again in 1987 with more success. In 2006 there were 815 publications and 110 magazines, presented by 390 publishers from 27 countries. In 2007 there were 900 publications and 110 magazines, presented by 400 publishers from 30 countries. In 2008 there were 1040 books from 400 publishers from 29 countries and 112 magazines. ‘Meet the Authors’ events have always been prominent, attracting great interest.

Finally the Exhibitions. Those dedicated to Everest, K2 and the Poles are unforgettable, but we should also remember those with the participation of painters, sculptors, photographers and travellers, along with those in memory of illustrious names of Alpine culture, or dedicated to the thousands of topics which, over the years have filled the venues in the city. Round-table conferences are particularly worth mentioning. They were mainly organised in alliance with the Club Alpino Accademico Italiano (Italian Academic Alpine Club), and about twenty of them took place in the important Atti (Proceedings). The renowned and always inviting ‘Retrospectives’ have greatly enriched the many exhibitions.

Just one more note: the Festival has seen the best protagonists of mountaineering and Alpine culture; it is impossible to list all of them, but we can at least mention some of the ‘climbers of eight-thousand-metre peaks’: Herzog and Lachenal for Annapurna; Tenzing and Hillary for Everest; Bhul for Nanga Parbat; Lacedelli and Compagnoni for K2; Tichy for Cho Oyu; Terray and Couzy for Makalu; Diemberger for Broad Peak and Dhaulagiri. Then, the men of Gasherbrum IV, the almost 8000, which was conquered by the CAI expedition in 1958 (with Cassin leader of the expedition and Bonatti and Mauri at the top). The team was welcomed with great pomp at the Railway Station in Trento and accompanied by a corridor of jubilant people in a torch-lit procession to the Teatro Sociale.

In the evening of 9th October 1959 (at that time the event was held in autumn), the Festival solemnly celebrated the conquest of Cerro Torre – the well-known dispute not starting until later – and Cesare Maestri and Toni Egger’s mothers were present, Egger’s being given a trophy in memory of her son, tragically killed during the descent from the ‘rocky howl’.

A multitude of small, average, large and great mountaineers could not miss Trento, nor could men of different cultures, actors and actresses, climbers, explorers and people who have made adventure their daily bread. Some legendary fellows – Eric Abram, Riccardo Cassin, Bruno Detassis, Kurt Diemberger, Sergio Martini and Chris Bonington – have become Honorary Members of the Festival.
Finally, the ‘teams’ of the past have always had plenty of ideas, originality and creativity, which have been developed and improved in recent years under the artistic direction of an actor and director from Milan, Maurizio Nichetti.

Italo Zandonella Callegher
Trento Film Festival former president