Melchior: a king from the Fiemme valley to Bethlehem at Christmas time

Melchior is the story of one of the Magi who left from the Val di Fiemme to arrive in Bethlehem, Palestine, on Christmas night. A symbolic journey that starts from the annunciation in Ein Kerem to the adoration of the Magi. The wooden statue of the Tesero crib tells the story of his journey, bringing a message of peace to the Holy Land, marked by conflict.

The story

Val di Fiemme, Italy, a master carver is working on a piece of wood: it will become the hand of a king. A voice is heard, it is the voice of the piece of wood who, curious, asks how it ended up in the master’s workshop. From a piece of wood, it becomes the statue of one of the Three Wise Men, Melchior. It is packed up and shipped to the Holy Land.

Bethlehem, the statue of the shepherd has arrived and is placed inside the Basilica of the Nativity, in the Tesero crib donated by Trentino to the Holy Land. Melchior tells of the arrival and the reality of conflict and hope, contrast and life, birth and resurrection. Melchior is identified in the apocryphal Gospels as one of the Magi who came from the East to adore the Child Jesus, the one who brought myrrh as a gift.

The cribs of Tesero and the master carvers

Tesero is located in Val di Fiemme, at the foot of the Dolomites, in Trentino. The nativity tradition has historical origins and since 1965 has been carried on by the association  Amici del presepe di Tesero “Felix Deflorian“. The large nativity scene with life-size statues is set up in the central courtyard every year. A wonderful version was set up in the Vatican and then taken to Bethlehem, to the Church of the Nativity.  

The tradition of woodcarving is very much alive in the Val di Fiemme. In our film, the sculptor is the creative artist  Tiziano Deflorian, who trained in the workshop of Felix’s father. Tiziano is an internationally recognised sculptor.

Tiziano Deflorian with Alberto Beltrami

An abstract and symbolic narrative

The narrative unfolds from the point of view of Melchior’s hand as it is carved from a piece of wood. Having become a statue, he sets off on his journey, a long journey by truck and then by ship to Jaffa and then to Bethlehem. As director, I chose to translate the message in a symbolic key, bordering on the abstract. One does not expect the story from the point of view of one of the three kings.

The short film tries to create a bridge between the Val di Fiemme, its nativity scenes, and the place of origin of the Nativity, where the manufacture of olive cribs is a major production.

In Trentino 100 years ago there was a battle line between Austria and Italy, so much blood was shed, deaths, displaced persons, divided families. Now it is a place of peace, of incomparable beauty. And so a message of hope is sent to the Holy Land, marked by constant conflict and violence.

Shooting at Christmas in Bethlehem, following a king from the Val di Fiemme

It took several hours to cross the checkpoint into Palestine. Filming in Bethlehem at Christmas is not easy. The arrival at the convent of the Nativity is greeted by the bands of Palestinian scouts who gather in Bethlehem every year: bagpipes, drums, marches, uniforms and flags to greet Christmas.

We filmed at Christmas 2016. There were thousands of people, it was really hard to walk through the streets of Bethlehem. I was there with Marianna Beltrami, and the cinematographer was Hanna Abu Saada, a true master of the camera who has worked with personalities like Morgan Freeman.

We were overwhelmed by the crowd several times and struggled to set up the tripods. Then, freezing cold, we tried to find accommodation, but there was no room for us… The full story of that special Christmas night can be found  HERE. The roofs of Bethlehem were full of armed soldiers, because there were several heads of state in the Basilica. The young woman looking for a crib in Bethlehem is the lawyer Nuha Farran from Haifa, one of the founders of  Women of Faith for Peace. Melchior’s soundtrack is by Alberto Beltrami who composed the songs, inserting them into the sound of bagpipes and traditional songs of the Cima Tosa choir, present in Bethlehem.


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