Universum, the natural history unit at Austrian public broadcaster ORF, is broadening its remit in its 25th year to cover a new Friday evening history slot.
ORF carries blue-chip wildlife programming from the unit, led by Andrew Solomon, at 20.15 on Tuesdays and 21.15 on Thursdays. Now, for the first time, Universum will produce and acquire history programming for a new 22.00 slot on Fridays.
The first project is Beauty, the Beast and the Truth (working title), the first documentary project for Austrian film director Julian Pölsler, who has just finished a movie adaptation of Marlen Haushofer’s 1960s novel The Wall.
The documentary is being coproduced with Smithsonian Channel and Arte and tells the story of a boy from the Canary Islands in the 16th century who had a genetic condition that meant he was covered completely in hair. He was given as a gift to the King of France and later went on to raise a family. The programme will also trace some of the 50 people alive today with the condition.
Solomon, head of natural history and science at ORF, told C21: “We have 41 slots a year so we’ll probably produce just three hours ourselves initially. There will be some copros, prebuys and an awful lot of acquisitions for history at this stage.
“High production values are very important because we have that reputation. It’s being called Universum History, so it we’ve given it our brand and we have to show that we can keep up the brand values. It’s up to us to clearly define it and build it with the audience.”