BioNTech – Project Lightspeed

BioNTech – Project Lightspeed

BioNTech - Project Lightspeed

A film by Michael Schindhelm, 52 min, ZDF/ARTE 2021

Available in the online ARTE media library until 18.04.2025

 

With the BioNTech vaccine, medical scientists Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci achieved a breakthrough after years of research.

The mRNA technique, which has been an important component for cancer research for many years, is now making history as a vaccine against Covid-19. But where does cancer research go from here? Can the mRNA technique also help to fight malaria? The film shows the incredible achievement of a start-up company from Mainz for global health.

 

Apennine Mountains – The Wild Heart of Italy

Apennine Mountains – The Wild Heart of Italy

Apennine Mountains - The Wild Heart of Italy

A film by Kristian Kähler and Silvia Palmigiano, 2x43 min, ARTE 2021

The Apennines are the backbone and soul of Italy in equal measure. These high and low mountain ranges traverse the Italian mainland, alternating from north to south. The many historical sites along the way help define the country as a whole, as does the wild and impassable nature. There are many national parks, home to rare species such as the bee-eating red-backed shrike or the nearly 500 Marsican brown bears. The Italian shepherding tradition has left a strong mark on the cultural landscape of the Apennines. Ancient traditions, picturesque places and living history can all still be found here. Locals call the Apennine Mountains “L ‘Italia minore” – Little Italy.

If you want to understand Italy and its culture, you don’t have to go to Rome or Milan. A journey through the serpentine roads of the northern Apennines is enough to understand where the true heart of Italy beats: right here – in the green forests, the abandoned villages and the rolling hills.

The Apennine mountain range stretches from Liguria across the Italian boot to Calabria at the tip of the boot. Yet the mountain region between the cultural cities of Bologna and Florence is known to only a few.

20-year-old Andrea Barrani dreams of producing his own wine right here – on the steep slopes of the Cinque Terre.

Shepherdess Cinzia Angiolini has also found happiness in the Apennines: she breeds the local Zerasca breed of sheep. Old traditions are preserved in the Apennines because there are people who maintain them – like the bell ringers of Monghidoro.

Young Federico Mezzini still struggles with the 400 kg bells, but he is confident that he will soon be able to play a concert.

Laura Sbaccheri has spent her whole life doing without her dream: She always wanted to ride a motorbike. A stroke of fate prevented her from doing so. Now, in her late 30s, she has finally fulfilled her dream: She rides on the Mugello racetrack at 250km/h and enjoys the thrill.

The journey along the northern Apennines ends in Umbria. Here, geologist Andrea Mazzoli shows on mountain bike tours what spectacular secret lies hidden in the million-year-old rocks.

The Apennines are considered the backbone of Italy – a world of its own with much to discover.

The second part of our series is dedicated to the Southern Apennines. The journey begins on the Gran Sasso, at the almost 3,000-metre Corno Grande – the highest point of all the ranges. The landscapes of Campo Imperatore have been shaped by sheep breeding for centuries. Here, Pastore Abruzzese shepherd dogs protect the sheep from attacks by wolves.

Further south, brown bears emerge from the wooded heights to roam the village of Villalago. The people of this picturesque community have become accustomed to the visits from the Marsican bears. Researchers are studying these endangered animals and working to preserving the population.

Further south in the town of Melfi in Basilicata, falconers maintain the tradition of breeding birds of prey, practised here since the High Middle Ages. Stauferkönig Friedrich II. Friedrich II, Emperor of the Roman-German Empire in the 13th century, was an enthusiastic falconer and wrote a still important book ‘On the Art of Hunting with Birds’.

In the southernmost tip of the toe of Italy, the Apennines surprises with sequoia trees and deep green forests, contradicting assumptions that Calabria is only hot and dusty.

Here, after 1500 kilometres, the journey through the Southern Apennines comes to an end.

Planet of the Sheep

Planet of the Sheep

Planet of the Sheep

A film by Marvin Entholt, 2 x 45min, NDR/ARTE 2021

Sheep are probably the most underestimated animal in the world. Without them, mankind would not be where it is today. Food, clothing – the unpretentious ram has been providing man with all this for eleven thousand years. The animals have made societies grow, they prepared people for culture and to this day they guarantee life and prosperity in many parts of the world. ‘Planet of the Sheep’ goes on a search for traces and clues among shepherds and breeders all over the world.

In Europe, the traditional shepherding profession is on the verge of extinction. In the Lüneburg Heath, only a few shepherds are still on the road with their herds of Heidschnucken to preserve the cultural landscape. Though some old shepherding cultures are still alive, in Sardinia as well as in northern Macedonia living the tradition of transhumance of many thousands of animals. In Scotland, a young, female generation is breaking new ground to save the ancient culture of sheep farming into the 21st century. And in Spain, too, new forms of sheep farming are becoming established: shepherd schools are training a new generation of shepherds.

China is going its own way: here, sheep are kept intensively by the hundreds of thousands to satisfy the population’s hunger. But on a smaller scale, quality of life and often human survival are directly linked to the existence of the sheep – as in Ethiopia, where farmers can finance their children’s schooling thanks to just a few animals. The undemanding sheep is a master of adaptation to almost any environmental condition – and thus probably also a helper in climate change.

Part 1:   Out into the World

Part 2:   Out into the furture

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The Voice of the Birds – Olivier Messiaen, Componist and Ornithologist

The Voice of the Birds – Olivier Messiaen, Componist and Ornithologist

The Voice of the Birds – Olivier Messiaen, Componist and Ornithologist

A film by Holger Preusse and Philipp Quiring, SWR/ARTE, 52 min, 2022
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For Olivier Messiaen, birds are “the greatest musicians inhabiting our planet”. Their endless melodies with the finest tonal gradations, their diverse singing and the infinite variety of rhythms are the lifeblood of the French musician. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his death on 27 April 2022, we tell Olivier Messiaen’s story from the perspective of the birds.

Messiaen became acquainted with birds at a young age, and when he came to Paris from the French provinces in his early 20s, they continued to flutter in his head. As organist of the parish church La Trinité in Paris, it is the birds that provide him with their songs, over which he improvises. Music lovers from all over Europe make a pilgrimage to see him. The premiere of his opera in Paris in 1983 is awaited with great excitement: In “Saint Francis of Assisi” (“Saint François d’Assise”), birds play a central role. For him, the birds are something metaphysical, a direct link to God.

Against the background of the “Voice of the Birds”, the film portrays the eventful life of the composer and ornithologist Messiaen through musical examples and narratives of selected interlocutors: There is conductor Kent Nagano, cellist Camille Thomas, Ondes Martenot interpreter Natalie Forget and organist Thomas Lacôte, Messiaen biographer Peter Hill, DJ and biologist Dominik Eulberg and, last but not least, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who vividly explains selected passages from Messiaen’s “Catalogue d’oiseaux” (“Catalogue of Birds”).

Magic Moments of Music | Nigel Kennedy & The Four Seasons

Magic Moments of Music | Nigel Kennedy & The Four Seasons

Magic Moments of Music | Nigel Kennedy & The Four Seasons

A film by Silvia Palmigiano and Isabel Hahn, ZDF/arte and C Major Entertainment, 43 min., 2022

In 1989, Nigel Kennedy’s recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons causes a turmoil in the world of classical music. The press call the musician the “punk violinist” while others treat him with scorn. However, the record goes on to sell more copies than any other classical album before or since. Kennedy succeeds in transcending the reservations of an audience that considers classical music too elitist or aloof. The film tells of the incredible rise of an outsider into superstar and of a Vivaldi interpretation that has achieved cult status.

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When Nigel Kennedy presents his vision of a new classical album to the record company EMI, he is met with broad scepticism. Certainly, with his wild hair and an outfit that mixes punk, gothic and new wave, he’s far from the typical classical musician. But manager John Stanley senses an opportunity: “If Kennedy is permitted to be who he is, you could sell millions of records.” And he’s proven right.

The film takes viewers back to 1989 when Kennedy and the English Chamber Orchestra shook up the music scene with their recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. With daring and verve, Kennedy appeals to an audience that was otherwise averse to classical music, resulting in album sales of over three million and an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Early on, the protege of Yehudi Menuhin stands out as a rebel: in the day he studies at the renowned Juilliard School and at night he plays in the New York jazz clubs and learns the art of improvisation, among others from Stéphane Grappelli.

Kennedy recalls: “The classical world felt like a straitjacket. I had to change something or else I had to get out. There was nothing to lose.” During the recording of The Four Seasons, he strives to free himself both from historically informed performance and the Russian School of playing. He seeks out and finds an interpretation that is inarr keeping with the times. With his playing style and arresting appearance, he breaks with the conventions of the classical concert business. The controversy is even discussed in the UK Parliament.

In the concert recording – filmed in the manner of a pop concert – the London audience sits at the edge of the stage in jeans and jumpers. The outfits of the orchestra musicians and the stage lighting change depending on the season. Star violinist Maxim Vengerov tells us what is revolutionary about Kennedy’s playing, and fashion designer Esther Perbandt gives her own view: “He’s an individualist. He doesn’t dress like this to market himself.” Nigel Kennedy says of himself: “I can only be who I am. And that’s how I am.”

With his groundbreaking recording, Kennedy helps young musicians to question the limitations and precedents of the classical music world and he pushes the door wide open for an audience to discover Vivaldi’s famous music.