CIVITA: Enchanted City in the Sky, the Dying City: Help finish a film about ancient Italian hill town, Civita di Bagnoregio, before it is lost - forces natural and man-made threaten this exquisitely beautiful place — also known as the dying city. - iCrowdNewswire

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Oct 4, 2016 12:16 PM ET

CIVITA: Enchanted City in the Sky, the Dying City: Help finish a film about ancient Italian hill town, Civita di Bagnoregio, before it is lost – forces natural and man-made threaten this exquisitely beautiful place — also known as the dying city.

iCrowdNewswire - Oct 4, 2016
CIVITA: Enchanted City in the Sky, the Dying City
Help finish a film about ancient Italian hill town, Civita di Bagnoregio, before it is lost.

Natalie Reuss
New York City, United States
CIVITA is my film about place, memory and the fragile ancient Italian hill town Civita di Bagnoregio, enchanted city in the sky. But forces natural and man-made threaten this exquisitely beautiful place—also known as the dying city. 25 years after first falling in love with Civita, I have decided to preserve its memories before they are forever lost. Production is half done—I’ve already filmed the autumn and spring seasons and important interviews. To complete production I need your help!


Sitting atop a cone of porous volcanic stone 75 miles north of Rome, Civita di Bagnoregio was first inhabited by Etruscans and later by the Romans. The hill town can only be reached by foot bridge, as centuries of violent earthquakes and erosion have separated it from the mainland below. Despite the loss of whole sections of the town to landslides and quakes, people there carried on living as their ancestors lived, day by day, season by season, century upon century.

Poetic and observational, the intention of this film is to capture the beauty and seaonal life of this fragile, ancient place. The camera follows a Mediterranean sun as it extends and attenuates light across the Roman Road, piazza, single surviving walls of houses set on a sheer precipice, olive and grape harvests, colossal reinforcement projects that stabilize the town’s stone walls that crumble like ricotta cheese, swarms of invading tourists, stray cats—and encounters with the few remaining year-round residents (Civitanistas) who give witness to past and present, attempting to keep hold of the thread of hill town life that wears so thin. 

Civita’s beauty and its truth are in stark contradiction. Last year, more than 550,000 international tourists scrambled up the steep bridge to gasp at Civita’s breathtaking beauty. (The hill town is only about 4 New York City blocks long). La citta che muore, the dying city, is becoming a postcard city—a commodity for tourist consumption. Authentic social fabric and daily seasonal life are unraveling. The memories, stories and songs of Vittoria, Civita’s 99-year-old matriarch, along with Antonio’s unique winemaking skills, will exist no longer.

Old-time residents know every story about centuries of geological disaster. They shrug and say simply, “Niente può fermare la natura”—Nothing can stop nature.

A year ago, nature once again exerted her will and assaulted Civita with a series of disastrous landslides. An urgent international appeal supported by officials, scientists, intellectuals, and artists—including film directors Giuseppe Tornatore, Bernardo Bertolucci and Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo—was made to UNESCO toSave Civita and gain its recognition as a World Heritage Site. The designation would ensure a continued flow of funds to the hill town to conserve it and reinforce its foundations. It would almost certainly put Civita even more firmly on tourist itineraries.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has placed Civita on its Watch List, and calls for not only a conservation master plan, but also a tourism management plan—both urgently needed if such an ancient settlement is to weather another century.

CIVITA, the film, will tell the story of this enchanted city in the sky. It is a story that cries out a warning and records memories before they are forever lost. Like the filmmaker Chris Marker, I believe that “memory isn’t passive, it’s an act of resistance—the edge that cuts a path into the future—and the effective work of memory is the very definition of art.”

A Note from the Filmmaker 

I was born and raised on glacial loam in the American heartland. My fate has led me down a creative path… in modest fashion. I have become an award-winning filmmaker whose oeuvre spans the range of documentary forms. Many of my films tell stories of fascinating cultural figures. Most of them explore the lives of those between worlds—émigrés on the borders.  The Oscar-nominated film ASYLUM is a groundbreaking work that illuminates the issues facing women who seek political asylum. And for CIVITA, also between worlds, I take my inspiration partly from the fragile volcanic earth that underpins this ancient, improbable hill town where, today, I can walk under the noon sun and sit in a piazza next to an Etruscan column carved more than 2500 years ago.

Years after first falling in love with Civita, I decided to film its story. I would direct, produce, shoot, take sound and edit. Using a lightweight, inconspicuous digital camera, tripod and sound recorder, I would record daily life through the seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall.

I’m fortunate to have been the first Artist in Residence of the Civita Institute, a preservation project of the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studiesbased in Seattle. I have extensive access to the hill town itself, its inhabitants, archives, a network of scholars and a lovely studio with an east-facing window.

Production on the film began in late 2012, and is now half done. But to complete the production phase, I do need your help!  I need to return to Italy to film Civita in the winter and summer seasons—to capture seasonal life, interview other Civitanistas, strategize with the film’s Italian advisors, and, with an Italian film crew, shoot festivals and do aerial photography that require more than my single camera.

Completion of this film feels urgent now because of Civita’s fragile environmental and preservation state, which are becoming increasingly precarious.  My hope is that this film’s poetic observation and recorded memories will help bring Civita to the world’s attention.

Why Indiegogo?

Making CIVITA has been a labor of love. I have been in production over three and a half years— researching, listening for stories, interviewing, filming, editing… and fundraising. I have paid for the cost of production, so far, with my meager remaining savings and the contributions of generous friends and family. More substantial funding is needed if I am to complete CIVITA before another earthquake of the magnitude of the one experienced in central Italy on August 23rd takes it, or the collapse of the foot bridge under the weight of the tourist footprint. Your contributions are needed now to finish production. 

To make a broader point: we live in times when interest in funding artistic creation is at a historic low.  It has become increasingly difficult to fund independent documentary film. Only 5 percent of these films receive foundation grants. Each filmmaker works out some sort of patchwork plan to get the work done. We often schedule shoots without knowing where the money will come from to pay for them, and we balance that fear with an unwillingness to make creative sacrifices for budgetary reasons. It takes years to make a film, not because of a lack of ideas, talent or skill, but because of a lack of funds. Often it takes years just to raise the money needed. My hope is that crowdfunding innovations such as Indiegogo will permanently change that.

I plan to travel to Civita to film in late December and again in June. I will film over a month in each season. Your generous contributions will see me to the completion of production. By the end of next summer, Civita’s story will be miles closer to the initiation of a post-production schedule and then hopefully en route to international festival screenings a year later.

YOU will have helped make that possible.Thank you for being part of this beautiful and important project! 

Financing the Finish Line for CIVITA

The funding needed to complete CIVITA’s production phase is $30,000. The budget includes 2 roundtrip tickets to Italy, airport and ground transportation, translation, film staff, equipment rental and camera supplies, 5 shooting days with an Italian film crew, meals and accommodations, administrative services, Indiegogo fees and the cost of perk fulfillment.

This film is a project fiscally sponsored by the preeminent women’s film organization, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT). Through that partnership, all donations to the CIVITA crowdfunding campaign are tax deductible! Please scroll down to FAQ to find out more about how your tax-deductible contribution will work. 



When finished, this film will really belong to all of us. If you decide to support the film financially, we have put together a slate of special rewards to thank you. The award levels should work with any budget.

Here are a few things to keep in mind: All backers will receive a social media shout-out and donor email updates. For most rewards, we’ve noted December 2016 as the delivery date. The digital download and DVDs will be available when the film is finished (roughly June 2018). 


A set of 3 handsome, sturdy refrigerator magnets with iconic images of Civita. Magnets are round and 2.5″ in diameter. 


Boxed sets of 6 notecards with stunning drawings of sites in Italy (including Civita) created by Anita H. Lehmann, a 2013 Civita Institute Fellow and renowned artist in the State of Washington. She writes: “As an architect and artist, the pencil tells a story, and the line evokes the honest nature of a place, expressing ‘literally’ weight, value, and tone. The pencil is my natural tool.” Anita has taught freehand drawing in Rome, and is now teaching drawing, expressive landscapes and watercolor in Civita.

Set of 6 postcards  – Italian Adventure

Set of 6 cards – Field of Poppies

Set of 6 cards – Valentine Poppies


“The Story of Sebastiano” tells the story of a little boy in Civita—the outcome ofThomas Allsopp’s  2014 Fellowship at the Civita Institute. While en route to Civita, Thomas recounts that an insistent young boy awoke inside him and flatly demanded that Thomas tell his story to children everywhere. The story elegantly and evocatively pinpoints the key details that together give the reader, especially children, the ability to sense life in this remarkable and beloved hill town. The book is handwritten, gorgeously illustrated, printed on two sides of one long folded page, and comes bound in a handsome stenciled paper sleeve.


A carefully selected photograph of Civita, taken by the filmmaker, signed and professionally printed on archival watercolor paper 8 x 10.  


 David Harvey was a young architecture student in 1977 attending the University of Washington’s Italian Hilltowns Program in Civita, studying under Astra Zarina. That summer he took a series of beautiful photographs documenting hill town life. He returned in 1986 to teach the summer program—only to find it had been canceled. Improvising, David traveled to Rome to purchase a paper backdrop from a photo supply store, managed to bring it back to Civita by bus, and then collected all the studio lights he could find to create a photo studio in a building just off the piazza. For the rest of the summer he coaxed the Civitanistas to have their portraits made… All David’s negatives have been stored away for nearly 40 years, and were only recently digitized. 

David is now Principal at Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, where he oversees all aspects of acoustic, audio-visual and theater consulting services provided by the firm. 

You can choose one of these 8 x 10 images of Civita, professionally printed on archival watercolor paper, as your reward—or a series of 3 images at a higher reward level. David will sign your photographs. The image below is David himself in 1977.


The Valley of the Calanchi lies just east of Civita. It presents an eerie landscape reminiscent of the Dakota Badlands, or maybe the surface of the moon. In a distant geological future, this is what Civita may look like. These whitewashed ravines were exquisitely documented by Italian photographer Paolo Gandola and his students. Paolo  wrote: “Calanchi was a project born of my love for Civita’s land. Two years of work with twenty students from the Instituto d’Arte di Orvieto, their four teachers and three local scouts. Two hundred days spent walking through the calanchi, looking for amazing points of view, amazing fog, the best light. I worked with them, shooting, teaching and creating the book Calanchi.” The Calanchi photographs have been exhibited internationally in New York, Dublin, Berlin and Italy.

You can choose one of the four stunning 11 x 14 images, professionally printed on archival watercolor paper, as your reward—or a series of 3 images at a higher reward level.


A 7-day, 7-night stay in Il Nuovo at Civita!! The Civita Institute facilities include a series of historically significant houses and apartments that have been restored over the past 40 years. Your studio, Il Nuovo, is a newly renovated, autonomous apartment composed of timeless architectural materials—stone walls, chestnut roof framing, stone floors, and tile roof. Il Nuovo has two floors—the beautiful, open kitchen and fireplace are located on the lower level, and the bathroom and main sleeping area are on the upper level. There is a queen-sized bed in the upstairs bedroom, plus two single beds for extra guests. 

This reward does not include travel or meals. Scheduling your stay will be arranged with the Civita Institute.


This sweet reward give you an official Associate Producer credit. You will also receive  your choice of three of any of the reward photographs printed on archival watercolor paper, special invitations to the film’s festivities and screenings as they become scheduled over time, participation in the rough cut screenings, a dinner party in your honor with the filmmaker and members of the CIVITA team (in NYC), and of course, you will also receive all the digital rewards from lower pledge levels.


This truly grand reward offers you an official Co-Producer credit and a 7 day stay in Il Nuovo in Civita! You will also receive 3 reward photographs of your choice printed on archival watercolor paper, invitations to CIVITA’s special festivities and screenings as they become scheduled over time, participation in the rough cut screening process (in NYC) and all digital rewards from lower pledge levels. 



Without the following people, CIVITA would be lost in the mists of memory. To make a documentary film like this requires a dedicated team, each of whom brings a high level of relevant expertise. Please meet CIVITA’s collaborative angels.


Iva Radivojevic, Consulting Editor, spent her early years in Yugoslavia and Cyprus before setting off for New York to pursue her artistic goals. Her work explores themes of identity, migration and immigration. Iva was named one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film of 2013. Her first feature documentary, EVAPORATING BORDERS, a selected project at IFP Film Week, is currently touring the world.


Gini Reticker, Consulting Producer, is an Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning director and producer. She recently directed THE TRIALS OF SPRING, which played at Human Rights festivals around the world and chronicles a young woman’s journey from an Egyptian village to international human rights activist. Reticker won the Tribeca Best Documentary Award for PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL and received an Academy Award nomination for ASYLUM recounting one woman’s journey to political asylum in the US.


Cinzia Rocchi, Associate Producer/Translator, was born to a family that traces its roots in Civita back to 1500. She left Italy to study Visual Anthropology in London and produced a highly regarded thesis that explored the effect of tourism on local cultures. Later, at the Royal Anthropology Institute, she created HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS, a documentary about young London squatters. Cinzia has returned to Civita and plays an essential role translating and associate producing CIVITA.


Deborah Shaffer, Consulting Producer, directed WITNESS TO WAR: DR CHARLIE CLEMENTS, which won an Academy Award for Short Documentary, FIRE FROM THE MOUNTAIN, which received an Emmy nomination, and DANCE OF HOPE, which received the Prix d’Or–FIPA. Involved in making social issue documentaries since the 1970s, Schaffer was an Executive Producer of the Academy Award-nominated ASYLUM. Most recently she directed and produced TO BE HEARD, which aired nationally on PBS. Deborah was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. 


Aaron Zisman, Consulting Editor, is a DP, animator and composer. He has a BFA in FAV from RISD and began art school with aspirations of becoming a Pixar animator. But the infamous “life has other plans” has since mutated into shooting and editing documentaries, playing ridiculously loud fuzz-bass in a band with his brother and stints teaching and practicing yoga asana. Currently he’s working on character designs for an animation project and learning how to grow tomatoes.

Tom Angotti, Advisor, is Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development. His new book is New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate.Tom has lived and taught in Italy, was honored with the Rome Prize.

Richard Ingersoll, Advisor, teaches art, architecture, and sustainable urbanism at NYU and Syracuse University (both in Florence, Italy). His recent publications areWorld Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History and Sprawltown: Looking for the City on its Edges. He was a key participant in the 2008 World Monument Fund’s symposium, Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Tuff Towns—Civita di Bagnoregio, Pitigliano and Orvieto.

Claudio Margottini, Advisor, leads the colossal geological preservation project in Civita, a situation he regards as urgent. He is engaged at Italy’s Department of Geological Survey and as Vice President of the International Consortium on Landslides in Kyoto. He taught Geological Engineering for the Protection of Cultural Heritage at the University of Modena, Italy, and now teaches Fundamentals of Geothermal Energy and Thermogeology in Wuhan, China. He serves as a consultant to UNESCO and other international bodies, developing geological engineering techniques to preserve cultural heritage sites from natural disasters and environmental threats.

Manuela Ricci, Advisor, architect and distinguished professor, is director of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning Sapienza, Università di Roma and FOCUS (Formazione, Cultura, Storia) Research Centre, which is dedicated to the integrated preservation and management of small historic centers, with emphasis on Italian hill towns.

Carol Martin Watts, Advisor, is Professor Emerita of architectural history and design at Kansas State University. Carol first encountered Civita di Bagnoregio in 1973, bought a house there, and a year later wrote her thesis Change and Continuity in Civita, An Italian Hill Town. Carol has continued to develop ongoing restorations to her house and nearby gardens. Her other Italian research projects have focused on Roman residential architecture, the historical layering of cities and urban transformation.

Other Ways You Can Help

The act of contributing is not just about giving money. There are other small things you can do to support this film. Make some noise about CIVITA! Share this Indiegogo campaign with your friends, colleagues, and social media circles using the Indiegogo share tools. Every share helps! Like and share our Facebook page! In this way you are spreading the word and perhaps introducing CIVITA to others who can help financially.

We are in this together! Help get the word out about CIVITA to the world!


1. How do Tax-Deductable donations work?

Through Civita’s partnership with NYWIFT, all donations to the CIVITA Indiegogo campaign are tax deductible! 

• For contributions over $250: NYWIFT will personally send you a thank you note on CIVITA’s behalf. This note will include all the information you need to be able to process your tax deduction.

• For contributions under $250: Thank you! We love you, too! Although NYWIFT can’t send out thank yous to every one of our contributors, you will receive the information you need to take your tax deduction. Please keep a record of the email confirmation of your donation that you will receive, plus your credit card receipt. You may then submit these with your taxes.

2. How can I indicate which photographs and Images I’ve chosen as sweet rewards?

You’ll note that the Indiegogo site allows you to select your perk, but doesn’t allow for specification. So if you’ve chosen David Harvey or Paolo Gandola images, or Anita Lehmann note cards, we will reach out to you so that you can specify your wishes. For the photos, please note your preferred image’s position on the Indiegogo page—the David Harvey images are in three rows of three and one single image of David below, and the 4 Paolo Gandola CALANCHI images are arranged in one row of three, with one larger image at the top. So when we contact you, please let us know the row (top, middle, bottom) and position (left, middle, right) of your favorite(s), and we’ll make sure to send you the sweet reward you have chosen.

Contact Information:

Natalie Reuss

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