When do we leave? Documentary films about the South Tyrol.


Confessing from the outset that I am perfectly willing to occupy a comfortable seat on the veranda of a hikers’ hut nursing a beer and bowl of stew while watching you climb a mountain … these are standout documentary films hitting the center of my target: geography, history and culture.

I haven’t been to the Tyrol, where Italy and Austria meet and mix, and this must be numbered among my major European travel regrets. It will happen, some day. In the interim, I’m reminded of time spent in the High Tatras (border of Slovakia and Poland) and the French Alps.

Deutsche Welle is my new favorite thing. You can have and keep Hollywood; documentaries are my gig. Here are the synopses.

South Tyrol (1/2) – the Dolomites

The Dolomites are perfect for climbing and hiking in summer. And for skiing in winter. The breathtaking mountain range is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Dolomites boast the world-famous ‘three peaks’ Tre Cime di Lavaredo – Langkofel, Plattkofel and Rosengarten. They are located in South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost province. The range was named after the French geologist Déodat de Dolomieu, who was the first to study their geology. Today the Dolomites are a World Heritage Site. Scenic spots include the Alpe di Siusi, Europe’s largest high alpine meadow, and Lake Prags. This documentary accompanies a team of mountain rescue workers during a difficult helicopter operation on the Tre Cime, observes Hollywood star Terence Hill during filming and watches an artist whose contemporary wood sculptures were displayed at the Venice Biennale. The camera team also followed in the tracks of World War I, when the front ran right through the Dolomites, and it introduces a young singer who wants to save the Ladin language through her music.


South Tyrol (2/2) – the Brenner Pass to Bolzano

Italy’s northernmost province, South Tyrol, begins in the Alps at the Brenner Pass – gateway to the south.

A historical trade route, the pass leads into a landscape that is home to many castles. Perched high upon the slopes stands a mountain shelter run by the Lunger family. The documentary accompanies the Lungers at work throughout an entire season.

High above the valley the mountain refuge Latzfonser Kreuz offers a spectacular view of the Dolomites. It is also the highest place of pilgrimage in South Tyrol. The Lunger family manages the shelter. Every year they leave their home in the valley to move up the mountain for five months.

The documentary accompanies the family at work throughout a season. Daughter Tamara is a mountaineer and during this time she makes an expedition to K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. The film also shows a new shelter under construction. Its modern architecture has caused quite a stir. From there the journey continues to the construction site of the Brenner Base Tunnel. Later, the filmmakers visit a woman who has dedicated her life to caring for a castle. After meeting an innovative carpenter who produces wooden handbags, they get a peek over the shoulder of a doctor who examines the glacier mummy Ötzi.