The very first Festival of African Cinema in Italy took place in Verona in 1981. Today, 31 years later, it is still going strong. It has also become one of the beacons of African cinema in Europe. The Festival has shown great vitality, going from the militant films of the 1980s to modern production, more open to explore issues and themes beyond culture and ‘Africanity’. The latest edition took place in November and proposed many short films and documentaries that sanction this departure from themes bases solely on Africa.
The XXXI African Film Festival of Verona was dedicated to ‘Revolutions, African springs and diaspora’. The festival offered a great variety of films, but also cultural activities, discussion groups and allowed the public to meet film directors and actors. The official jury – composed by film critic Giancarlo Beltrame, film director and poet Cleophas Adrien Dioma, and film producer Annabelle Alcazar, who also the Art Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival– chose the Kenyan production Togetherness Supreme of Natahan Collet. “The film, they said, proposes a strong story. It focuses on Kenya, but it reflects issues that are continent wide. The film takes us into le life and emotions of Kibera’s slum dwellers as they are in real life. The film is well edited, the cast excellent and the story well told”.
Best documentary was Ithemba. “A movie that, without hiding the tough side of disability – the jury said - broadcast with rhythm and music the joy of life and, as the title says, hope. Life is stronger than any handicap. The Jury wishes that the prize may be shared with the young people appearing in the movie”. The Festival proposed also sections on documentaries and specific themes. Notable the section dedicated to documentaries with an impressive group of production. The Festival was founded by the magazine Nigrizia, and the editorial board of the magazine assigns its own prize. This year, the Nigrizia prize went to 18 Jours, a documentary made up by 18 independent short films, each to celebrate one of the day of the Egyptian Revolution. 18 Jours is a real chronicle of what happened, and of the people’s commitment for change. The documentary is more than the sum of its parts. In no scene one has the impression of viewing a simple paste up of material from different sources. This is a plus for the directors who worked together to produce it.
The Film Festival presents a prize at the Zanzibar Film Festival. Earlier this year, the prize was assigned to The rugged priest, a Kenyan production. The film was also shown in Verona, premiere view in Europe, and received a warm welcome from the public. The rugged priest is the story of Father Anthony Kaiser, a missionary who worked among the Maasai in southern Kenya and who was killed for his commitment to human rights on August 23, 2000. Bob Nyanja, the film director, conducted a lively debate after the projection. He explained that the many technical shortcoming of the film were due to the little money, the short time available for shooting, shooting with only one camera and with non-professional actors. Put in other words, it is a miracle that the film was shot at all. Nyanja’s problems are typical of the African film industry. At the same time, The rugged priest and Togetherness Supreme are the example of a film industry, the Kenyan one, that wants to find a space in the African panorama.