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JOSEPH BAIER'S ODE TO MORTALITY
Tiziano Terzani,the intrepid Italian journalist who is the principal character in Joseph Baier's second feature The End Is My Beginning La fine è il mio inizio, is the polar opposite of Vlado Taneski, the Macedonian crime reporter-serial killer whose horror story forms one of the three narrative strands in Milcho Manchewski's "Mothers". Unlike Taneski who wrote morbidly detailed accounts of the grisly murders of three old cleaning ladies whom he abducted,tortured and raped before disposing them in a rubbish dump, Terzani reported on the fall of Saigon to the Vietcong and the conquest of Phnom Pehn by the Khmer rouge. He was Der Spiegel's foreign correspondent in Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and New Delhi.The Chinese goverment would for "counter-revolutionary activities."
Terzani died on 28 July 2004, aged 66. An Italian television station would recorded his last final down-memory-lane interview in a telecast titled "Anam", an Indian word that means "the one with no name", an appellative he gained during a stay in an Indian ashram.
Terziani had devoted himself to the study of Indian spirituality after discovering he was afflicted by stomach cancer, and spent some in the Himalayas, before returning to his native Tuscany.
As Joseph Baier,Director of Terzani's biopic, "The End Is My Beginning, told the press at the Media Centre, "anam" figured significantly in Terzani's final interactions with his son Folco and family, as he lay dying. (When oh when,will someone make a film on that other Tuscan beacon, the woman journalist, Orianna Falacci?)
Terzani would write several books which were translated into various languages by publishers from India, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina and Europe. Baier's German-Italian arthouse production is based on Terzani's last book La fine è il mio inizio which was published posthumously in March 2006."It's a father-son testament" says Baier.
Does the title have anything to do with T S Eliot's great poem The Wasteland, I asked the director. "No, those were words he used repeated ly alluding to death and the transition to the other side during conversations with his son" ( who has co-written the screenplay)
The book depicts his last days (in the summer of 2004, when he succumbed), in the course of which he communicated to his son Folco, his many adventures, his thoughts and reflections on subjects ranging from Chinese Marxism to a universal communion between man and nature,life and death. A quote: "...the goal of my journey was not the cure for my cancer anymore, but for the sickness which affects all of us: mortality."
The wonderful Swiss-German actor Bruno Ganz (who has essayed Pope John Paul 2, Faust, Hitler,Luther and an angel ) plays the role of the ailing, ex journalist, now living in the idyllic Tuscan hills, dressed for all the world like an Indian sage. Folco is played by Italian actor Elio Germano.
"Ganz is an absolute delight to work with.Unlike many actors who are vain, he does not behave like a diva,"says Baier who grew up in a Bavarian village, and studied philosophy before joining the TV industry.
In Germany as he tells it, documentaries do not attract huge audiences in comparison to main stream cinema, still there are people who appreciate the genre and very good documentaries are being made, he said. Baier has been making films since 1979 and has won many awards including the Adolf Grimme prize and the Bavarian TV award which he has received more than once. ‘Wildfeuer’, ‘Operation Valkyrie’, ‘Not all were Murderers’ are the titles of some of his award winning films.
"Capitalism reduces people to consumers and materialism is a horror" observes Baeir whose output includes a documentary on a German doctor working in a hospital in Rajasthan." Terzani was uncertain of what lies beyond but he was sure death was not the end. Asian religions and spirituality helped Terzani come to terms with death.The message of the film as in the book, is that, in the end, one needs nothing at all. As Terzani said in his final days, "I am nothing, I am no one, I am anam."
About Ronita Torcato
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