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The mountain film: Dead? In a state of apparant death? Resurrected?
Link: Preisträger 1986-2005
On the occasion of the 4 th Graz Mountain Film Festival 1992, this topic was discussed by the unforgotten Karin Brandauer, director of films such as „Verkaufte Heimat“ and „Die Wand“; by Dieter Pochlatko, film producer from Graz; by Frido Hütter, art editor at the newspaper „Kleine Zeitung“; by Andreas Braun, at that time director of the Tyrol marketing and publicity agency with the succinct slogan „Land im Gebirg“ and by the extreme climber Edi Koblmüller from Linz. All of them were convinced, that the genre mountain film had been divided: on the one hand into films for the cinema, on the other hand predominantly documentaries for television.
From cinema to television
After the Second World War, the great period of mountain films in the cinemas of the 1920s and 1930s experienced a short renaissance initiated mainly in France . All attempts during the last decades to bring back mountain films into the cinemas have more or less failed. Despite first class casting, despite the best directors, as for example in “Five days one summer” with Sean Connery and the former Viennese climber and fivefold Oscar winner Fred Zinnemann as director.
Instead, the mountain film changed to documentary series on television. Is it a coincidence that animal, mountain and nature films have become the programmes which have the highest number of viewers for the broadcasting companies since the beginning of the 1980s?
Mountaineer and dreamer
The fact that mountain films can nevertheless be seen sometimes on huge screens is due to the mountain film festivals with their from year to year increasing number of visitors. The initiator of mountain film festivals in the German speaking world was Robert Schauer.
Whoever meets Schauer for the first time, speaks with him for the first time, would never think he is a top climber or film maker, one would take him for a doctor or an artist. At least, this was my first impression: no grandiloquent slogans, no north-face face. The 1978 Everest expedition of the Austrian Alpine Club was a cornerstone in Schauer's life. On May 3 rd , at the age of only 25, Schauer was the first Austrian to stand on the summit. In addition, he collected his first professional film experience on Everest. His teacher and master was the famous English mountain film maker Leo Dickinson. Already in 1975, Schauer had climbed his first eight-thousand metre summit, the Hidden Peak . In 1976, together with his friend Hanns Schell from Graz , Schauer climbed the Nanga Parbat : with an ice axe, a rope and, for the first time, with a camera, with a modest super 8mm device. In 1996, he should have once again stood on Everest, however, this time with much heavier baggage and under extreme mental and physical conditions: he was a member of the historical IMAX film team, who deferred their film work in favour of rescuing those who had survived the disaster days on the highest mountain on earth. In 2004, Schauer, at that time already 50 years old, had reached the summit for his 3 rd time: as a camera man of a movie dealing with the tragedy of 1996.
The idea of organizing a mountain film festival came to Schauer when he was in Chamonix . There, at the beginning of the 1970s, he admired the climbing films of the young French mountaineers and mountain film makers who were conquering the European television market with their oeuvres.
Like many others, I also asked myself so often, why – with the exception of a few, very short-lived events - there existed no mountain film festivals in the classical mountaineering cities such as Vienna , Innsbruck and Munich ? Apparently no-one had ever dared to organize one. Schauer did!
For 20 years I have been watching Robert's activities, for example as a member of the jury during the first 1986 Mountain Film Festival in Graz . The presentation of this first festival was more than modest: there existed a small, thin black and white program, typed on an Olivetti and printed on Offset. However, the participants were great: the elite of the international mountain film makers, such as the French Jean Afanassieff, Robert Nicod and Nicolas Philibert, the American Jeff Lowe and Michael Kennedy, as well as the German Gerhard Baur came, and the success series of the Swiss Fulvio Mariani started. He and Afanassieff were awarded the first “ Alpine Cameras in Gold” in Graz .
Patron saint and alter ego
From the early Christian time in Greek there has been handed down the story of a family tragedy. A pagan father forbade his daughter to visit the messes and he ordered to close her into a dark tower. However, after a short time, the prayers of the imprisoned maid made the tower and the walls collapse. For this reason, the father ordered his daughter to be beheaded. Because of her dark prison and because of the wall breaking believe, the martyr Barbara became the patron saint for miners, artillerists, bricklayers and weapon smiths. Due to the dark prison one should name her perhaps as well the patron saint for film presenters and festival organizers, since there lives and works a name-colleague in Graz. Barbara Koren-Tauscher has known Robert Schauer from their commun climbing tours in their early youth. Since 1992, she has become the alter ego of her youth friend, thanks to her creativity within the cultural ambiance and the artistic frame of the festival and thanks to her organisation talent and her capacity to keep the overview, not only when Robert Schauer is occupied with film works somewhere in the mountains. Everyone who knows this calm, reflective woman will agree when I call her gratefully the “patron saint” of the Festival.
Film work means team work.
During the years, Schauer and Koren-Tauscher have formed a small but powerful team, among which above all Wolfgang Ortner as the standing presenter of the festival for many years together with “the Voice” of Austria Ernst Grissemann and the deceased editor of the TV series “Land der Berge”, Manfred Gabrielli have to be mentioned.
Schauer did not stumble on his way to the summit of the in the meantime greatest and most successful mountain film festival in the German speaking world. Besides his own endurance this is also thanks to two mountain friends. In a today rarely seen political unity, they have made the city of Graz – once the city of a national uprising – into not only the city of encounters and dialogues between cultures and religions, but as well the “city of mountain film”: the former mayor Alfred Stingl and the former Governor of Styria Josef Krainer.
Too much tradition often causes a standstill. This is also valid for institutions such as (mountain) film festivals. Graz realized this early and was always ready for innovations. Thus, the two original categories “mountain films” and “climbing on rock and ice” were soon – already at the second festival in 1988 – complemented by the third category “nature and environment”. In 1994, the fourth category “adventure films” was added. In 1995, the event was prolonged to four days and offered a cinematic highlight with its retrospective “100 years cinema – 90 years mountain film”.
In the same year, the „Grand Prix Graz“ was also introduced for the first time for the best contribution of the festival. Then followed the exhibitions of the photographers Toni Muhr, Ace Kvale, Bill Hatcher and Jimmy Chin, as well as of the mountain painter Helmut Ditsch. Above all, every year in November, - only once, in 1992, the Festival took place in March – Graz has become the meeting point of famous alpinists and mountain film makers from all over the world. But also the “great stars” of TV and cinema, such as Karin Brandauer, her script author and drama writer Felix Mitterer, her husband Klaus Maria Brandauer and the director of the Oscar awarded film “Mephisto”, the Hungarian Istvan Szabo found their way to the Styrian capital.
The fulfilled dream
A mountain film cannot replace a personal mountain experience, however, it can invite the public to fulfil their mountain dreams. Robert Schauer, too, has fulfilled the dream of his youth: he is alpinist, cameraman and organizer of a festival. Does he know the words of the English director David Lean, whose films have been awarded with 22 Oscars? The great epic poet of cinema, and the creator of probably the best “adventure films” such as “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Doctor Zhivago”and “Lawrence of Arabia“ once said: “We act with dreams” and he meant, “Once you are really enthusiastic about filming in nature you will try to escape from the film studio whenever possible!”
Hopefully, Robert Schauer because of his modesty will not bear me ill-will when I add to his life work not only the wish „ ad multos annos“ but also a quotation by the Danish writer Tania Blixen: „The most irresistible man on earth is a dreamer whose dreams have come true.”
Die Gewinner des Grand Prix Graz 1996 mit Robert Schauer: Hans-Peter Stauber (li.) und Lutz Maurer (re.)
Die ersten Gewinner des Festivals 1986 (v.l.): Jean Afanassieff, Fulvio Mariani, Karel Vlcek
Die Gewinnerin des Grand Prix Graz 2005 Frau Monica Schmiedt aus Brasilien (mi.), Frau Dr. Anne-Marie Leb (re.) und Robert Schauer
“Cumbre-Cerro Torre”, Gewinnerfilm 1986 von Fulvio Mariani
Thierry Renault bei einer Kletterdemonstration in der Nähe von Graz 1986
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