Franco Prosperi: Italian Filmmaker and Naturalist.
Early Career and Academic Background
Franco Prosperi was born in Rome in 1928 and is an Italian film director. He co-created the Mondo movie genre alongside Paolo Cavara and Gualtiero Jacopetti, with their pioneering film being “Mondo cane“. Prosperi initially graduated in natural sciences and agronomy. He began his scientific career as an ethnological and ethological researcher at the Institute of Zoology at the University of Rome, under the mentorship of Edoardo Zavattari. Later, he specialized in ichthyology and became one of the pioneers in underwater research. He collaborated with the C.I.R.S. (Centro Italiani Ricercatori Subacquei) and led an underwater scientific expedition in the Indian Ocean near the islands of Ceylon and Maldives, where he conducted experiments on sharks.
In 1953, Prosperi directed another zoological and geographical expedition under the auspices of the Italian Geographical Society, the Council of Ministers, and the Rome Zoo. During this expedition, a film crew from the Phoenix production company accompanied him, leading to the creation of the film “Gran Comora”. Over the years, he led more expeditions to Africa, Australia, Madagascar, Comoros Islands, Aldabra Archipelago, Seychelles, and Papua New Guinea. During one of his African journeys, he discovered and photographed a rock on the plains of the Zambezi River near the Zimbabwe border, which led to his last book, a novel about the Vivaldi brothers.
Work in Documentaries and Journalism
Between 1954 and 1955, Prosperi produced various naturalistic documentaries, many of which received awards at FEDIC film festivals, including the series “I viaggi meravigliosi” for Documento Film. He collaborated with Rai and produced 30 feature-length films for “Viaggi del Telegiornale”, one of which documented his ascent of Kilimanjaro. Moreover, he wrote articles and travel reports for several newspapers and magazines including La Tribuna Illustrata, L’Europeo, and Il Giornale d’Italia.
Prosperi authored several books such as “Gran Comora e Matea Mora” (Garzanti), “Africa Addio” (Rizzoli), and “Vanished Continent” (Hutchinson), among others.
Career in Mondo Movies and Later Films
His career took a turn when he met Gualtiero Jacopetti. In 1962, along with Paolo Cavara, they made “Mondo cane”, which won a David di Donatello award and was nominated for an Oscar for its musical score. The film also represented Italy at the Cannes Film Festival. After the remarkable public success of “Mondo cane“, the trio produced sequels and related films like “Mondo cane 2“, “La donna nel mondo“, and “Africa addio“, all produced by Cineriz. He also directed commercially successful films for other directors, such as Antonio Climati and Mario Morra, but did not take credit due to agreements with producer Goffredo Lombardo. His last major film was “Wild Beasts – Belve feroci” released in 1984.
Later Life and Return to Research
After his film career, Prosperi returned to his roots in ethnological and naturalistic research, focusing on African regions including Kenya, Uganda, Rhodesia-Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia. He currently resides near Formia and the Gianola and Monte di Scauri Regional Park.