Folco Quilici was born in Ferrara in 1930, the son of Nello Quilici, historian and journalist, and the painter Mimi Buzzacchi. In 1951, he graduated from the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and the following year began making the film Sesto Continente which, after two years of filming and editing, in 1954, was presented at the Venice Film Festival. In that same year, the film took first Prize at the Mar del Plata Festival. In 1955, he directed Ultimo Paradiso, based on a script by Ennio Flaiano and Emilio Cecchi, which took the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1956 and was distributed throughout the world by United Artists. In 1958, he directed Dagli Appennini alle Ande, starring Eleonora Rossi Drago, which took the Concha de Plata prize at the San Sebastiano International Film Festival. In 1961, he directed Tikoyo and the Shark based on a script written with Italo Calvino; the film took the Unesco Prize for Culture and was globally distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer. In 1970, he shot Oceano, which took the special prize at the Taormina Festival, and the David di Donatello award the year after.
In 1972, inspired by the first report on global environmental problems edited by Aurelio Peccei, he made Il Dio sotto la pelle, with the cooperation of Carlo Alberto Pinelli.
With the film Brother Sea, he won the International Sea Film Festival of Cartaghena in 1974.
In 1992, he directed Danger Adrift, produced jointly with the CBS, which took the Umbria Fiction Prize.
Among the dozens of strong-commitment medium-length cultural films such as Gauguin (1957) and The Angel and the Mermaid (1980), presented out of competition at the Venice Film Festival must be recalled Siena, un giorno, i secoli (1970), based on a text by Fernand Braudel and the three films I Mille giorni di Firenze, on the saving of the city’s cultural heritage following the flood of 1967. Folco Quilici received an Oscar nomination in 1971 for Tuscany, one of the fourteen films of the Italy from the Sky series, with scripts by Calvino, Sciascia, Silone, Praz, Piovene, Comisso, Berto, Frassineti and Soldati. Well-known experts in the field and scientists like Carlo Rubbia, cooperated with Quilici in the enquiry film “Uomo, ambiente, energia”, shot in 1989.
For the French-German network Arté, he directed the feature films Kolossal (2002) and Il Mondo di Pinocchio (2003).
His medium-length films on underwater archaeology were among the first in the world in this field. Among the most interesting is I Greci d’Occidente, shot in 1988; L’Impero di Marmo (2004), Il Mare dei Fenici, re-edited in 2007 (under the scientific supervision of Sabatino Moscati). In 2007, together with archaeologist, Francesco D’Andria, he shot the film Hierapolis, while in 2008, together with the archaeologist Sebastiano Tusa, he made the film entitled Panetelleria, un’isola nel tempo.
Distributed by RAI3 and by the PBS in the USA, in 1988-89 he shot three films in the Amazon region: Water from the Heavens. Like these three films, other productions of his have been widely broadcast on TV, in Italy and abroad. From Tre volti del deserto (‘57), In Search of Africa (1964/65), to series split into several episodes and co-produced in Europe such as Malimba (1966), India (1966/67), Islam (1968/69), The Dawn of Man (1970/75), The Mediterranean (1971/76), I mari dell’Uomo (1971/1974) European Man (1976/80), Festa Barocca (1980/1982), Il linguaggio dei luoghi (1986), La Grande Epoque (1983/1985), Risk and Obedience (1990/92), The Archives of Time (1988/93), Adventure and Discovery (1990/93), Journey into History (1992/93), Archipelagos (1993/95), Italia Infinita (1996/2002), Alpi (1998/2004), Di Isola in Isola (2004/05), L’Ultimo Volo (2010).
For the thirteen films of the Mediterranean series and the eight of European Man, Quilici was assisted by one of the leading historians of our time, Fernand Braudel and the anthropologist, Lèvi-Strauss.
Between 1992 and 1999, he directed L’Italia del XX secolo, 65 films based on the writings of historians De Felice, Castronovo and Scoppola.
Between 1971 and 1989, Folco Quilici edited the TV programme GEO RAI Network 3. Since 2002, he has been working for major SKY TV programmes (Marco Polo).
International awards have acknowledged his commitment in favour of cultural TV programmes. From the French Critics’ Award for the direction of the Mediterranée Series (1972) to the Italian Critics’ Award for India (1966), The Dawn of Man (1975) and Baroque (1983). In 1995, he received the “European Gold Plaque for historical-cultural films”. For his work as a whole, he has received other awards including the more recent “Hemingway” (2007), “The Navicella d’Oro”, of the Italian Geographic Society and the “Chatwin” in 2008. For his film “Ultimo Volo”, he received the Acqui Storia Cinema Prize in 2010.
Alongside his endeavours as a filmmaker, he has also published numerous non-fiction books in Italy and abroad – Sesto Continente (1954), Mala Kebir (1955), Mille Fuochi (1964), Gli ultimi primitivi (1972), Magia (1977), Il Riflesso dell’Islam (1983), L’Uomo Europeo (1983), India (1990), I Mari del Sud (1991), Il Mio Mediterraneo (1992), Le Americhe (1993), L’Africa (1992), Tobruk 1940 (2004), I miei mari (2007), Terre d’Avventura (2009), La Dogana del Vento (2011), Storie del Mare (2011), Amico Oceano (2012), Relitti e Tesori (2012) and Cani & Cani (2013).
Between 1976 and 1979, he edited The Great Encyclopaedia of the Sea. In 1974/75, he co-authored the two illustrated books, published in France, La Mediterranée, along with Fernand Braudel and Venezia in 1984, always with the same historian.
His most successful book, Cielo Verde, dates back to 1997, and this was followed by Naufraghi (1998) and Libeccio (2008).
Together with his wife Anna, he has written two biographies: Amundsen (1998) and Jack London (2000), which won the Chianciano Prize and Castiglioncello Prize.
Since 2002, he has been working on a series of books together with Luca Tamagnini (Published by Phoatlante), dedicated to the protected marine areas of Italy. His book dedicated to the war diary of his father Nello, Tobruk 1940, appeared in 2001.
His first novel, Cacciatori di Navi (also published in the U.S.A.) appeared in 1985. This was followed by Alta Profondità (1999), the first of the narrative sequel consisting of L’Abisso di Hatutu (2001), Mare Rosso (2002), I Serpenti di Melqart (2003) and La Fenice del Bajkal (2005).
In 1955, Sesto Continente won the Marzotto Prize for literature. In 1981, he took the Malta Prize with Mediterraneo and, in 1985, the Fregene Prize with Cacciatori di Navi. In 1993 came the Estense Prize with Africa and the Scanno Prize for literature with Mare Rosso (2003).
Since 1954, Quilici has contributed to the Italian and international press - Life, Epoca, Panorama, Europeo and the daily newspapers La Stampa and Il Corriere della Sera. In this field, he won the 1969 “Premio Italia” prize for journalism and the 1990 “European Journalism Award”; in 1994, he won the “Gold Pen” for his articles on Latin America. In 1997, he was awarded the “Campidoglio Prize” for cultural journalism.
He has held courses at Bologna University (1966/67), at Berlin University (1991), at the Experimental Film Centre (1995), at the Catholic University of Milan (1998), at Rome’s Third University (2001-2002) and at Padua University (2004-2005).
Between 1985 and 1989 he taught at the ORAO, (Cultural Image Training Centre).
Between February 2003 and June 2006, he was President of ICRAM, Central Institute for Applied Marine Research, and was editor of the Institute’s monthly journals.
He is one of the founder-members of the H.D.S. (Historical Diving Society) and of the Marevivo Association. Since 2001, he has been a member of the Italian Geographic Society.
He has been a photographer since 1949, and has put together a photographic library comprising over one million images, now entrusted to the Alinari Library. In 1998, he was proclaimed “Great Master for creative excellence” by the International Photo Contest.
In 1983, he was presented with the “Gold Medal” for cultural merits by Italian President Pertini.
In 2006, FORBES magazine included Folco Quilici among the world’s one hundred most influential writers in the environmental field.
More details and news on website: WWW.FOLCOQUILICI.COM
Browse the news archive