Television viewers in Italy were treated to a 21/2-hour look at Brigham Young University and other parts of Utah during a live satellite broadcast Sunday afternoon from Sundance.
Mino Erasmo Damato, host of the Italian science-news show called "Alla Ricerca dell'Arca" (oughly translated, "In Search of Noah's Ark"), took his weekly show on the road, so to speak, to Utah.His program Sunday centered on global warming and environmental concerns common to Utah.
With an elaborate set built up around the Sundance buildings, Damato roamed around in telethon style, since the broadcast was commercial-free and included few taped segments.
The program featured the live performances by the Salt Lake Symphonic Orchestra, interviews with BYU professors, a chat about environmental issues with actor Robert Redford, and segments introducing viewers to Provo, Salt Lake City, the state as a whole, BYU and dinosaur quarries.
Damato likened the collection to a smorgasbord of sorts, or "like a feast for a very special reason."
He said he purposefully avoids following a true documentary format, saying documentaries can be "deeper, but colder." Instead, he opted for "a very soft approach" when dealing with the global-warming topic.
Damato also was mindful of the hazards of a satellite broadcast. "You have no time to rehearse or to recuperate. If something goes wrong, you're out," said Damato, who recalled a last-minute scramble that overcame a power outage just minutes before the program was to air.
Damato, a 25-year journalism veteran, has worked for Italy's major newspapers and magazines and has been a special correspondent for RAI - the Italian state television network - for the past 20 years.
During that time, he has been a war correspondent in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Israel and Cambodia, as well as having conceived and launched the nation's first live daily news show on science and man, called "Italia Sera." His topics for that and subsequent programs have ranged from Vikings to AIDS.
But why choose Utah over other more-recognizable states like New York, Florida, Texas or California? "Nothing is casual; nothing happens just by chance," said Damato, saying a recent program guest was Wade Miller, a BYU geology professor and director of the university's Earth Sciences
Museum. Miller had accompanied BYU's heralded dinosaur egg for an appearance on Damato's show earlier this year.
Talk about broadcasting live from a dinosaur quarry evolved into the program centering on global warming and other scientific and environmental issues from the past, present and future.
Not only had Damato established relationships with BYU and Miller regarding prehistoric and other scientific studies, but he also knew the university's role with the Philo Farnsworth invention of television as well as the background of Redford. "Robert Redford is a man involved on the front row of environmental problems."
The program on global warming, then, was "to fill the gap between the scientists and the media, and between the government, the politicians and the media," he said.
Understanding that while such a broadcast is a "a drop in the ocean," it is at least a starting point for thought, he said. "The goal is . . . to make the public more aware about an issue that is very specific."
Damato then waxed philosophical. "As we were saying yesterday, we are really in a spaceship that is moving with billions of passengers, so we just can't continue as individuals."
Riz Ortolani, an Italian composer who recently was awarded the Italian equivalent of an Academy Award for his movie compositions, arranged the music for Sunday's program and then directed the orchestra during the broadcast. Ortolani labeled his nature-oriented arrangements as having "invented a bridge" between the program and the views.
Damato explained his desire to give his viewers a glance at all the Utah sites. "I'm trying to give a complete picture of where you are. . . . If you don't show connected segments as much as you can, it's just a program coming out of nowhere."
He admitted having common misconceptions about Utah before making his first trip to the state last week. "Pictures like postcards, something coming from the movies, wonderful landscapes - nothing else," said Damato, who will be spending the few days before returning home to Rome doing a little more sight-seeing around Utah.
Meanwhile, Sunday won't be the last time that viewers of Damato's program will be treated to local people and sights. The journalist-producer is planning a behind-the-scenes look at the live satellite broadcast from Sundance.