25 years on from the first Festival of African, Asian and Latin American Cinema, we are moved. We want to tell you about some moments of this adventure: the ones that made us laugh most and that moved us the most, the ones we learned from, the ones that allowed us to discover worlds and directors whose names are on everyone’s lips but were then unknown. We decided to call these good memories “I WAS THERE” and our voices are those of Annamaria Gallone and Alessandra Speciale, the two artistic directors. We invite everyone who was there, who have passed by and who crossed our paths, to join us in a collective story, perhaps the first ever by a Film Festival, by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, including “i was there” in the subject.
In 1989, after 18 years in Africa, I came back to Italy very unenthusiastically and I was invited by Don Pedretti, then head of the Curia, to organize at San Fedele the pioneering season “Il lontano presente. It was from this meeting that in 991 the African Film Festival came into being where experimentation was compulsory, starting from dubbing African voices which were not easy to reproduce. We tried everything: the Italian tone of voice that was most similar was… Sardinian… can you imagine? That year I met Cheik Oumar Sissoko, a famous Malian director. In 1991 he presented one of his first films in Milan “Nyamanton, la leçon des ordures”
I arrived a year after Annamaria, “blown in on the sirocco” after a long period in Thailand. I went to “Il Lontano presente”, attracted by unknown films by Asian directors.
I remember having met Abderrahmane Sissako, very young and very shy. He arrived in Milan with malaria, to present his first film, “Le jeu” at the Festival. It left us thunderstruck. Even now (his Timbuktu is nominated for the Oscars) when I meet him it is cause for celebration: the last time I told him that I have all his films, including “Le jeu” and he answered; “Really! I don’t even have them all!” It would be great to devote a retrospective to him Will he be joining us this year? 25 years on?
Of that period I remember Don Pedretti, founder of COE, who asked us to transform “Il lontano presente” into the African Film Festival. He was a courageous, visionary and prophetic man who was close to the young, unknown but promising African filmmakers and he looked after them. His first question was: “…tell me, what do you need?” We began to go to FESPACO in Burkina Faso (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou). The whole of Africa interested in the cinema was there, at this very important, chaotic, beautiful festival. More than 6,000 people for every edition. We would never miss one again.