Young Geo Chavez’s heroic first-ever transalpine flight aboard an early canvas-panelled aircraft. An age of pioneers brought to life as a fairy tale using archives and 2D animations.
Brig, Switzerland. September 23, 1910. Following days of postponements due to bad weather, just two competitors remain in the challenge for the first-ever transalpine flight. The morning is foggy and chill, with gusty winds. It’s the next-to-last day of competition organized by an Italian commission. It doesn’t look like anyone’s going to pull it off. The organizers are driven by their firm belief in the inevitability of human progress. In July 1910 they announced the Transalpine Flight Challenge, with 70,000 lire for the pilot that succeeds in flying an airplane over the Simplon Pass (2008 meters above sea level), from Brig to Domodossola, Italy. An outrageous feat at the time, it would be the first successful transalpine flight ever. Aviation had only gotten off the ground seven years earlier, when Wright brothers made their famous first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. By 1910, progress had been made internationally. France had some 50 registered pilots; the Aero Club London had just been founded. But despite fast-coming advances in this new “sport”, until July 1910 no man had ever reached an altitude of more than 1,000 meters in an airplane. And now, suddenly, the challenge has been launched: Who will pilot an aircraft over a natural obstacle more than 2,000 meters high?
‘The First Transalpine Flight’ is a unique historical documentary that combines different genres and approaches in a familiar use of multiple audiovisual language codes, including experts’ views, the testimony of impassioned followers, the solidity of historical documentation, the concreteness of our own reconstruction, and the “lightness” of 2D and 3D animation. The following materials are at our disposal: interviews with experts on pioneer aviation; film footage and photos from that epoch, bringing to life the days before and after the flight and the minutes of it; access to early flying machines and aircraft housed in Italian and French museums; official documents; newspaper titles and reports about Chavez’s achievement; literary texts dedicated to him and to other pioneers of flight; current on-location footage of places once frequented by Chavez and memorials in honor of his transalpine feat; interventions by early pilots; a woodworker’s life-size reconstruction of Chavez’s Bleriot 11; an original animated reenactment of Chavez’s 1910 flight from Brig to Domodossola, designed by an up-and-coming animation talent, Francesco Vecchi; and, last but not least, the original footage filmed in 1910 of the transalpine flight itself, recently gone under restoration in Milan… While we remain faithful to the documentation, “The First Transalpine Flight” aims to be a non-genre historical documentary that involves viewers actively in a winning, thrill-packed flight across the Alps and beyond.
«Just one century has passed since Geo Chavez flew across the Alps, for the first time in history and in only 45 minutes. Today his plane, a Blériot XI, seems more like a flying insect, a clumsy dragonfly with bicycle wheels, than a modern transcontinental aeroplane. The Alps, however, have not changed. Even their aura of impassable barrier has remained intact despite having been conquered by man over and over by now. It is this contrast between the fragility of the means and the majestic power of the Alpine peaks that gives Chavez’ adventure the flavour of a fable. But – alas! – no happy ending is in store for its romantic hero, only a tragic one instead.
Yet it is precisely this tragic ending that transports the true tale of Chavez’ flight into the realm of myth.
This, in effect, is the style, the colour I would like to give our documentary film about the first flight across the Alps.
Geo Chavez, like many protagonists of ancient myths, succumbs after completing his feat. The heroes beloved by the gods would often die after daring and conquering the challenge, burning in the fire of their loftiest endeavour».