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Ciao Babylon
A TV documentary by Kurt Reinhard and Christoph Schreiber, 52 min., CH 2017
«Ciao Babylon» takes us to New York where Dan Kaufman is committed to preserve endangered languages. The film also follows Giancarlo Malchiodi from Brooklyn to the Swiss Alps on his way to rediscover his mother tongue Romanish, a language that may die out within a few decades. Experts believe that by the end of the century half of the 6,500 languages spoken today will have vanished; and with every language dies a unique way of perceiving the world. «Ciao Babylon» calls attention to this dramatic development.
In New York City roughly 800 languages are spoken, more than in any other city. In order to uncover these linguistic treasures and record the diverse range of idioms, linguist Dan Kaufman established the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA). Amalia Malchiodi is an ELA regular who records stories in an old Romontsch Sursilvan dialect. Her son Giancarlo spoke perfect Romansh as a boy, but later, as he says, decided out of youthful exuberance to only speak English. He now regrets that he is no longer proficient in the language of his forefathers. This is why he has started to relearn the language and eventually embarks on a trip with Amalia to Sagogn, his mother’s hometown. There they meet a Portuguese family whose children are growing up with the Romansh language, which they are learning with relative ease given its similarity to their mother tongue. As a result, the many Portuguese immigrants in Grisons are becoming the new hope for the preservation of Romansh in Switzerland.
Precisely these kinds of surprising, unpredictable twists in the evolution of languages are fascinating to Dan Kaufman. He says that no one can predict which languages will still be spoken in 200 years and which ones will only survive in the archives of the ELA.
Production: soap factory GmbH, Basel
Writers, directors:Kurt Reinhard and Christoph Schreiber
Original version in English, Spanish, Rhaeto-Romance and Swiss German with English and German subtitles, 52 min.
Protagonists: Daniel Kaufman, Giancarlo Malchiodi, Amalia Malchiodi, Leobardo Ajtzalam, José Suàrez, Lisseth Morin, Gloria Angeles and many more.
World rights: soap factory