I Was There: From Los Angeles to Algeria, passing through Tunisia

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 festival@coeweb.org, including “i was there” in the subject.

At the 6th edition of the Festival we were still unable to abandon the topics linked to black culture and in 1996 we were still very attached to the ferment of the African American community in Los Angeles, which in the same year organized in South Central a major event to celebrate the history of Black Africa. Fully in tune with this, we continued here with Rage in USA II: Black is beautiful is the guiding thematic thread (in our lives too…)

This was the year we also presented “Keita, l’héritage du griot” by the Burkina Faso director Dani Kouyaté. Dani has followed in the footsteps of his father, Sotigui Kouyaté, a leading actor, collaborator and fraternal friend of Peter Brook, with whom he worked acting in his most majestic dramatic works. He was the first African actor ofinternational fame, well known for his charismatic figure. He always went around wearing a griot’s hat and maintained that “behind the camera there is the modern griot”.

“Un été a la Goulette” by Férid Boughedir deserves being mentioned for at least two reasons:the director is also a well known film critic who did not hide his interest in our festival, especially to come to Italy and eat spaghetti with tomato sauce (many African directors also loved us for Italian cooking which they all greatly appreciated! In the 1960s, La Goulette was a small port in the outskirts of Tunis where people of different cultures and religion lived together in great harmony: Muslims, Jews and Catholics, including many Italians. La Goulette was therefore a symbolic district and was also the birthplace of Claudia Cardinale “the most beautiful Italian girl in Tunis”.

One of the short films we decide to present is “Puk Nini” by Fanta Regina Nacro, a much loved director in Africa. Here she tackles the theme of female seduction. Fanta is an audacious woman who does not fear measuring up to subjects that are not easy and socially important (her battle for the use of condoms is famous), whilst keeping an ironic view which characterizes all her works.

Still in 1996, we presented “Waati”, the film by Souleymane Cissé which unfortunately seems to have decreed his end. With this massive work in 1995, Cissé tried to crown the dream of any African filmmaker: to make a pan-African film that goes from South Africa to the Ivory Coast. An impossible feat. Still in 1996, the retrospective dedicated to Algeria could not fail to include René Vautier, an Algerian hero (even though French) who had fought for the independence of Algeria from colonialism and had documented the revolutionary struggle. We can consider his high level of documentary-making as the first expression of independent Algerian cinema.

(Alessandra Speciale e Annamaria Gallone)

Don Francesco Pedretti 1996

Festival 1996

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