The artistic director of the African film festival of Verona, Fabrizio Colombo – a Comboni Missionary who also is the director of the web based Afriradio – was recently presented with a special prize by the Zanzibar International Film Festival. “Every year the most important festival of African cinema in East Africa – says Fabrizio – offers a showcase of the best films of that part of Africa. For the past 5 years, I participated as a member of various juries but also as a member of the organization. In addition to various awards to African films that best express the spirit and the African culture and its values, each year the organizing committee awards special prizes to people who contribute to the promotion of African culture and films. This year, the President of the Committee of the ZIFF assigned to me the special prize of the festival. I was sincerely surprised; I interpret this prize as a sign of gratitude for the commitment and the work done in promoting African cinema in Europe. I must say that this recognition is often rare at home”.
Fabrizio why it is important for you to promote African cinema?
It is easier to raise funds for a school or hospital than to produce and promote culture, be it movies, music or theatre, and art in general. Yet Africa wants to tell the world about its identity and reality. Many artists are committed to speak out about situations of injustice, but also offering a new positive vision of Africa. Africa has a lot of potential, and that must be respected and promoted.
The time of “paternalism” is over. Africa still needs aid for infrastructure, yet life is not only structures and production. There is a need to support creativity, art, beauty. African cinema and the African diaspora in Europe can help us to better understand how to live in the intercultural present. The time has come even to speak of Africa with Africa. This is also the spirit of Afriradio, the radio we Comboni Missionaries started.
You are a missionary priest, how do you reconcile your commitment to promoting African cinema and the mission?
Many of the people I meet, even among my own confreres, think I am wasting my time, that I could do something more productive. They seem unable to realize how arts can help our lives. As a missionary, I realize the importance of working in Africa. Because I spent time there, in Chad, I can now become an instrument to promote in Europe what I encountered there. I think there is room for missionaries, priests and religious, to promote African culture and artistic development. In my dealings with film directors, actors, and other artist, I always found the space to be friend but also priest. I always had the opportunity to share my worldview with them. Cinema is a good tool to celebrate life, love, achievements … and these are part of the Gospel we proclaim. Remember, it is the beauty that will save the world…