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.
It was in 1995 when we decided to devote the retrospective of the fifth edition of the festival to Nigeria. We presented “Le cri du coeur” by Idrissa Ouédraogo, a film we fell in love with because of the poetic force that it was able to express. Shot in Lyon, it was not well received by French critics because it did not meet the conventional portrait that is commonly done of Africa. A child at one of the screenings for schools defined it “a science fiction film, because it shows African driving around in nice cars and living in nice homes. It’s not like that in reality…”.
We remember that in the jury there was the Tunisian film editor Kahéna Attia, the first and only Arab woman who for the love of her work was willing to move for months on end to sub-Saharan Africa to be able to work with the great African directors.
1995 was also the year we presented the section “The African dream in Italian cinema”: how Africa was represented in Italy during the colonial period. Thanks to material offered by the Istituto Luce we were able to show the films shot during the various Italian expeditions to Africa.
We also presented the famous historical film “The lion of the desert”, based on the life of the rebel Omar al Mukhtar, who fought opposing the conquest of Libya by the Royal Italian Army. The film was censored, and its distribution in Italy prohibited, as it “damaged the honour of the Italian Army”. It was not shown on Italian TV until 2009, almost thirty years later.
The first video products – not on film – began to arrive and so we organized a new section and we could direct our search to the more advanced countries (South Africa, the Caribbean…). We now had to do with the audiovisual heritage of the second- or third-generation Maghrebi youth. Talk began about the banlieues and the memory of immigration and there was now reasoning about a Beur film library.
(Alessandra Speciale e Annamaria Gallone)