Ella Maillart – Double Journey
Born in 1903, Ella Maillart’s first access to fame was as an Olympic sportswoman representing her native Switzerland in the fields of hockey, skiing and sailing. During the 1930s, and for the rest of her career, she became better known as an ethnographer, conducting daring journeys across Asia which she chronicled on film as well as in widely sold travel memoirs.
The journey in Ella Maillart – Double Journey is “double” in two senses. It tells of an expedition to India undertaken on the eve of the Second World War that was split in the middle – the first part across Europe to Kafiristan, the second stage, a few months later, from Kabul to Delhi and on to Bombay, where she stayed with representatives of the British Raj going about their daily lives while anxiously waiting for political news from back home.
But the documentary is “double” in another sense because for the first part of the expedition Maillart was accompanied by a friend and compatriot, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a woman of strong personality – a poet, photographer and observer in her own right. They were an unconventional pair (Schwarzenbach was a lesbian), thoroughly impatient with their bourgeois upbringing, and profoundly open to alternative anthropological horizons.
Lewinsky Sträuli and Bigini’s documentary draws extensively on the original rather wonderful film Maillart made on colour stock about her journey, supplemented by extracts from her diaries read out in voice-over by the French actress Irène Jacob. The resulting movie uncovers a fascinating chapter in the history of ethnographic exploration, undertaken at a moment when, thousands of miles away, European civilization was on the brink of the abyss.
Mariann Lewinsky Sträuli
Mariann Lewinsky Sträuli is an independent researcher based in Zurich, Switzerland. Curatorial programme series include: Views from the Ottoman Empire (2014), Emulsion Matters (2012), The Great Film Experiment 1900-1918 (2010), Il Cinema Ritrovato – Cento Anni fa (2004-2015). Restorations of silent films include: Ma l’amor mio non muore! (Mario Caserini, I 1913), L’Homme au gants blancs (Albert Capellani, F 1908) and works by Ella Maillart, Renée Schwarzenbach-Wille, Willy Leuzinger. Archival DVD editions include: Albert Capellani, un cinema di grandeur 1905-1911 (2011), Comic Actresses and Suffragettes 1910-1914 (2010), and European Cinema from 1909 (2009).
Antonio Bigini (b. 1980) is a director, screenwriter and curator. In 2012 he directed the episodic film Formato ridotto, born of the meeting between home movie archival footage and five Italian writers (Ermanno Cavazzoni, Wu Ming 2, Enrico Brizzi, Emidio Clementi and Ugo Cornia). Since 2014 he has worked with the Cineteca di Bologna as associate curator. As a writer and script editor, he regularly works with various production companies (Kiné, Bologna; EiE Film, Turin; Peacock Film, Zurich). He has also taught writing for documentary films at Bottega Finzioni, the school of creative writing in Bologna run by Carlo Lucarelli. His published works include the collection of tales Tonino Guerra wants to kill me (Pendragon, Bologna, 2007), and in English, A Wrong Guide to Italy (Bucci Publishing, Zurich, 2013).