EUFCN Location Award 2022 Finalist: Brissago Islands

In the middle of Lake Maggiore, in the Gulf of Ascona, over 2,000 species of plants from all five continents grow on two small islands, creating a unique contrast between the subtropical vegetation and the snow-capped Alpine peaks. The Brissago Islands became the setting for Dawn Chorus, the first feature film by Ticino screenwriter and director Alessio Pizzicannella.

The Brissago Islands are among the finalists of the EUFCN Location Award 2022, the annual prize for European filming locations organized by the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN). The location was submitted by the Ticino Film Commission.

The islands directly inspired Dawn Chorus’s script. “I had the locations available before I even had a story to tell,” says director Alessio Pizzicannella. “I work very well with restrictions. I believe they push and stimulate creativity. I knew I wanted to shoot uniquely on the two islands, not a single frame on the mainland to tell this coming-of-age story. So I just went there and looked for the story.”

The Brissago Islands are Switzerland’s only botanical garden and regional landmark on an island.

“The surreal location shaped the writing form from the get-go. An island in a Swiss lake it’s already an odd incipit. Two islands sounded even more peculiar. A tropical island in the middle of an alpine lake was too much to resist.”

At the end of their sabbatical year backpacking around the world, four backpackers find themselves adding an unexpected stop among palm trees and alpine peaks on a tropical island in the middle of a Swiss lake.

“I like to add a touch of surrealism to my writing. It allows for poetry,” says Pizzicannella. “Dawn Chorus’s characters were defined by the context. The film describes a bubble and a mood in which the characters find themselves.”

DAWN CHORUS by Alessio Pizzicannella

Filming Dawn Chorus on the Brissago Islands had its challenges. “Moving the whole crew in and out of the island every day was a task, but also an excellent opportunity to gather our thoughts while going to the set early in the morning and unwind at the end of the day,” says Pizzicannella.

“The weather was also an issue. It rained for a record-breaking number of days just before we started shooting. The lake raised a few meters, and most of our locations ended up underwater. For a small crew such as ours, it was an incredible challenge reorganizing the schedule, waiting and hoping for the water level to decrease, and resetting all the locations once it happened.”

Behind the scenes of DAWN CHORUS by Alessio Pizzicannella

“On the islands, we found ourselves in a tight bubble of our own. The film I was after was an atmospheric one rather than a narrative one,” explains Pizzicannella. “Being genuinely isolated from the rest of the world helped me achieve what I had in mind. The islands inspired the writing and the characters and suggested the moods while filming. The yoga scene, for example, was a spirit-of-the-moment thing. With such a light and relaxed atmosphere, that room inspired us to film that scene, writing it not on paper, but directly with the camera.”

Dawn Chorus, by Alessio Pizzicannella, was produced by Venus & Beyond Multimedia, RSI -Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Jasa Productions, Nightswim, Los Hermanos, Jumyam, and Central Productions.

The European Film Commissions Network is a non-profit association that supports and promotes the European film industry and culture. It currently represents 95 European film commissions and film institutions from 30 different countries.