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ORF UNIVERSUM and ORF-Enterprise are delighted to present this year's UNIVERSUM autumn line-up. Expect spectacular filmography packed in gripping storytelling in 6 brand-new documentaries from ORF’s blue-chip factual outlet.

Friday, October 16, 2020 09:00 am (GMT +02:00)
Join ORF’s Gernot Lercher and Caroline Haidacher at the Nature & History Showcase at MIPCOM online+
Gernot Lercher - Head of Natural History

"Award-winning filmmakers are literally pushing the envelope with UNIVERSUM Nature programs this fall to deliver spectacular wildlife cinema. Just in time for the election of the new US president, they portray Big Bend – America’s Wildest Frontier, the national park on the Rio Grande between the USA and Mexico. They accompany a leopardess and her cub, in Leopard Legacy - the leopards are observed for the duration of over two years on their dramatic journey through Zambia and the filmmakers reveal a surprising secret with Bears of the Karawank Mountains: Slovenia is 'big bear country'. Relatively speaking, with country-size comparisons, there are more bears in Slovenia than in Alaska! Many of them cross the border to Austria in the breathtaking mountain ranges of the Karawanks. It will be an exciting autumn, with UNIVERSUM Nature films from three continents."

Caroline Haidacher - Head of History

"How did the Austrian Alps become the flourishing center of the Iron Age salt trade in Europe? Why did the first world ruler Charles V fail miserably 500 years ago in his mission "one empire - one religion"? What role did the internationally networked slave trade play for the Vikings? UNIVERSUM History gives the answers: Packed into movie-quality footage, revolutionary findings from top international researchers, elaborate CGIs and the search for clues at original locations bring past eras back to life. The Salt Saga – White Gold of the Alps is a journey into prehistoric Hallstatt - one of the wealthiest communities of Europe around 2000 years ago. A community in which women played a leading role - not only did they work (as did children) in the salt mines of the mountain, women also held high social positions. The white gold of the Alps enabled Hallstatt to establish trade contacts from Africa to Asia and the far north. With Charles V. – The Impossible Empire, UNIVERSUM History portrays the failure of an emperor who did not shy away from wars to impose his religious convictions and megalomaniacal visions. Stolen gold from the colonies was supposed to create an empire where the sun never sets - but all this ends in a political and human fiasco. The final highlight: a look at an unknown side of the Vikings who brought back more than just material looted goods from their raids in Europe and North Africa. Literary sources from the 9th century and the most modern archaeological research methods prove: human beings were also prey to the northerners, their wealth was also based on slavery and slave trade."

Bears of the Karawank Mountains

52 min. | Available in October


The Bears are back! After virtually disappearing in the 20th Century, in the 21st the quiet giants are returning, padding once again through the mountain forests of central Europe, where Italy, Austria and Slovenia meet.
The fall of the Iron Curtain removed the barriers for Slovenian and Croatian brown bears. Ambling west through gentle forest countryside they encountered two major obstacles: the Karawank Mountains and the Julian Alps. This film tells what happens through the year as inquisitive and intelligent bears cross these huge natural barriers in search of a new life in untouched wilderness - or ever closer to civilization. For bears eat many of the same things we humans like, and their refined senses honed instincts help them find it! The film opens our eyes to bear habits and to their enormous power. We humans have always been drawn to bears; always approaching them with fascination, and with just a small dose of fear.

Leopard Legacy

52 min. | Available Now


A confident and powerful leopardess named Olimba, rules over an exceptionally large area along Zambia’s Luangwa river. She is a formidable hunter, a courageous ruler, and a devoted mother. She’s just given birth to two tiny cubs, and as she faces the challenging task of motherhood, it’s a constant battle to hunt successfully, to defend her prime territory, and to protect her cubs against her enemies. During their first few months, the cubs go from strength to strength, as Olimba introduces them to the world of a carnivore. But whenever she goes out hunting, she leaves them vulnerable. One day, Olimba discovers a nomadic male leopard near her cubs, and without hesitation, she attacks him. He makes a lucky escape, but when Olimba returns to the den, one of her cubs is gone.

As she comes to terms with her loss, Olimba forges on as a devoted mother, and passes on all her knowledge to her blue-eyed boy, named Makumbi.

Big Bend – America’s Wildest Frontier

52 min. | Available in October


The legendary Rio Grande river cuts deep canyons between the US and Mexico, but the wildlife knows no boundaries. This most talked-about frontier is a vast wonderland of serene beauty and larger-than-life desert landscapes – and home to some of America’s most glorious wildlife. Big Bend National Park boasts more species of birds, butterflies, bats, reptiles, cacti, ants and scorpions than any other US National Park. The soaring Chisos Mountains are sky-islands harboring survivors at the extreme edge of their ranges and seeking respite as they migrate through. This is America’s true borderland, where horizons never end and stars blaze as they have for eons; where mountain lion and black bear roam, where bats stalk the desert floor at night, seeking out of all things – scorpions! It‘s the wild west of our cartoons and movie dream-worlds: home to the coyote, rattlesnake and roadrunner. Big Bend still appears exactly as it did when native Americans were the only humans to drink from its springs and hunt its game, before the wagons of the white settlers first appeared on the horizon. The film journeys through Big Bend throughout a year, seeking out its secret places and wild creatures.

The Salt Saga – White Gold of the Alps

52/43 min. | Available in October


The Austrian Alps contain the world’s oldest salt mine. 2,500 years ago, it was home to one of Europe’s most significant settlements and has even lent its name to an Iron Age culture: Hallstatt. Salt, the White gold of the Alps, put the tiny community at the heart of an international trade network: finds of ivory and amber are evidence of trade with Africa, Asia and the entire European continent. How did prehistoric miners manage to dig several kilometres of tunnels into the mountains? How did they live? How did they trade, and with whom? For the first time, this primetime documentary investigates the lives and work of the people of Hallstatt and explores especially the central role of women in the prehistoric salt mines.

Charles V. – The Impossible Empire

52 min. | Available in November


500 years ago, Spain’s 19-year-old King Carlos I became the German King of the Romans and was shortly thereafter crowned Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. His vast power was bought with money borrowed from the Fugger family, the loans secured with gold and silver from the Spanish colonies in America. The new emperor had a grand plan: to unify Europe as a great Christian empire, an “El Dorado” built on a unified faith. In faraway Mexico, Conquistador Hernán Cortés soon declared him “Emperor of the World”. But the extermination of the Aztecs and Incas in his name plunged pious Charles into a deep crisis of conscience. His European mission was soon challenged by the Reformation, led by Martin Luther. The film shows Charles V both as a holy warrior and a humanist, with lavishly reenacted scenes and newly rediscovered archival material.

Victims of the Vikings

52/43 min. | Available in December


Why did the Vikings hunt humans? Who were their victims? What role did slaves play within their society? What fates awaited their captives? How was the slave trade organized, and how did it develop over time? And what impact did this human trafficking of the Vikings have on the Europe of the Middle Ages? Now, for the first time, a docu-drama seeks out the answers to these questions and illuminates the history of the Vikings and their slaves.

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