When I was a teenager, my mother’s best friend, Anna Indermauer, was the manager of an art house cinema in Zurich that showed international movies. Sometimes in the afternoon, she would let me slip in to see a film and this was a major even as most of the films at that time had a restricted classification and you had to show ID to see them. The cinema opened up a new, imaginary and in some way virtual world to me and I absolutely wanted to learn how films are being made. As soon as I was old enough to travel by myself, I took the night train to Rome to find out about Cinécittà, one of the most creative film studios in the world at the time.
“Hotel Locarno” came together after the manager of the Hotel Locarno where I used to live during my time at Cinécittà came up to me and said: “Why do you go to Cinécittà every morning when you could make a film right here in the Hotel…I have some money to invest too.” When Gerald, Federico Fellini’s personal assistant, told me that the film crew of Fellini’s “Casanova” had no work after concluding the shooting, I grabbed the opportunity and everything happened very quickly. The story is about a small town hotel like the Hotel Locarno that hosted mostly locals, Italian commercial travellers, journalists, artists, recently divorced women and which served also as a refuge for secret affairs. So I imagined what would happen if I were a travel agency “spy”, investigating hotels in Rome for a Swiss travel agent to send their week-end tourist to.
“Cheeeese” is not the sequel but the answer to a famous Italian movie called “Pane e Cioccolata” (Bread and Chocolate). How can you give a Swiss response to an Italian film with such a name? It’s like this: “Cheese”or better “Cheeeese” – like give me a smile (or as the dictionary says: the cheese of the cake or the true core of the apple), and because the Swiss are not known for smiling much by nature. In “Bread and Chocolate”, an Italian worker who comes to Switzerland to find work is trying his best to look and behave like the Swiss. In “Cheeeese”, the Swiss hotel director behaves completely differently. First, he does not even want to go to Italy because he believes that everything south of the Alps must be Africa, poor and dirty, and it is only the love of his wife for their Sicilian head waiter that persuades him spend their summer holidays in Sicily, where he discovers that there are places with riches far greater than in any of Switzerland’s bank accounts. After finishing my courses at New York University Film School, I moved to Rome in 1974 where I had the chance to work as an assistant to legendary director Federico Fellini, before I went on to direct my first feature film, “Hotel Locarno”, in 1979. It earned several international awards for best direction and best film.
Upon completing a tour of the world’s leading film festivals, including the Toronto and Montreal Film Festivals, I decided to relocate to Montreal, Canada, where I developed several TV-movie projects and also directed my second feature film, an Italo-Canadian coproduction and sweet-sour, romantic comedy “Cheeeese” starring Vincent Gardenia and Senta Berger. In Canada I worked for CBC and Quebec TV directing a series on immigrants called “The New Generation” and developed several screenplays and film projects that are still in the pipeline.
My last documentary films (The Desert Prince) while residing in Canada were actually shot in Africa retracing Antoine de St.-Exupéry’s journey in the Sahara desert and commemorating 50 years of the disappearance of the French writer-aviator, famous for his last book, “The Little Prince”. Back in Europe, another aviation driven docu-drama film was commissioned by Swissair to commemorate its 70 years anniversary. “The White Leopard”, starring Bruno Ganz was also shot in Africa around and on Kilimanjaro. Since starting the New7Wonders campaigns, I always have a camera team with me where ever we go on a World Tour mission and all these films edited together comprised “The Making of the New7Wonders of the World” in 2007. I am soon going to edit a film on all the New7Wonders of Nature campaign promos that were produced by countries participating in this project.