History of the Festival

gallery storia del Festival africano

From 1991, a Festival
in Milan open to the world

The African Film Festival began in 1991 in Milan as an occasion to get to know the new cinema coming from Africa and the African diaspora in the world.

The Festival was founded by Associazione COE , an Italian ngo engaged in activities of international cooperation, especially concerning the cultural promotion in African, Asian and Latin American countries. The artistic directors were (and still are) Annamaria Gallone and Alessandra Speciale.

Ever since its first edition, the greatest African filmmakers of all time took part in the Festival over the years, such as Idrissa Ouédraogo, Sembène Ousmane, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Nouri Bouzid and Raoul Peck, and the most promising talents like Abderrahamane Sissako, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and Alain Gomis presented here their earlier works before becoming world-famous and critically-acclaimed directors.

Abderrahmane Sissako, for example, came to Milan in February 1992, in his thirties, and presented Le Jeu to the Festival’s audience, one of his very first short films. Cut to 23 years later: in 2015 Sissako had just received his first Oscar nomination when he came back to Milan to be the President of the Festival’s Jury.

He then expressed his gratitude to the Festival for its “commitment in building bridges between cultures and give visibility to underrated films”.

More than Africa

In 2003 the Festival became the African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival, extending the competition to directors from Asia (Middle East included) and South America, in order to be up to date with the new tendencies in the film industry and represent the ever-growing multicultural reality we live in.

Among the famous filmmakers who presented their works at the Festival in the last 15 years: Nelson Pereira Dos Santos (Brazil), Alejandro Fernandez Almendras (Chile), Hana Makhmalbaf (Iran), Alfonso Gazitua (Chile), Kamila Andini (Indonesia), Diao Yinan (Cina), Ounie Lacomte (South Korea), Rachid Masharawi (Palestine), Prasanna Vithanage (Sri Lanka), Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (Bangladesh), Chen Kaige (China) and many more.

Italy calls, the Festival answers

The Festival’s mission to tell all the multifaceted aspects and changes of our society through films led to expand its competition to Italian cinema. In 2007 the Extr’A competition was created, a section for Italian directors (or foreign directors resident in Italy) whose films are either shot in Africa, Asia or Latin America or are centered around immigration issues and cultural diversity.

We witnessed our society change through the films made by Andrea Segre, Dagmawy Yimer, Stefano Liberti, Medhin Paolos, Suranga D. Katugampala, Alfie Nze e Giuseppe Carrieri, among others, whose stories provide a new perspective of the three continents and our own country.

Cinema as a tool

The African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival has 4 aims:

  • promoting new national and international talents
  • discovering young emerging filmmakers 
  • be a source of information and a fresh alternative to mainstream media 
  • educate new generations through cinema 
Rama Tiaw by Camille Millerand festival cinema africano

Rama Tiaw by Camille Millerand

Cinema is a tool. The directors’ privileged point of view allows the audience to deepen certain current topics, such as international politics, migration policies, contradictions.

The Festival’s screenings are still a unique occasion to watch quality films, which are difficult to find elsewhere. During the week, the audience can dive into the images, cultures, people and stories of the three continents while watching films in their original language.

Education through art and cinema is another important aim:  since its origins, the Festival has been active in educational activities for schools and universities.

Spazio Scuola is an initiative dedicated to teachers and students who can take part in special screenings, meet the directors, interact with them. Discover more about Spazio Scuola here.

Spazio Università is a program of screenings and meetings dedicated to university students, whose schools host master classes with the guests of the Festival. Discover more about Spazio Università here.

The Festival beyond the Festival

The African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival is organized and promoted by Associazione Centro Orientamento Educativo – COE, an NGO founded by Don Francesco Pedretti that has been operating for 50 years to promote international cooperation and education to a global citizenship. More infos here .

Thanks to COE’s activities, the Festival travels from Milan across Italy with the COEmedia Film Distribution catalogue (which consists of films presented at the Festival’s past editions), counting over 300 yearly screenings in festivals and cinema clubs on national territory and weekly school activities. Take a look at our catalogue here.

Festival Premiazione San Fedele 2015

From 1991…
Africa, Asia and Latin America as you’ve never seen them before…
in movie theaters!
Visit the full archive of our past editions here.


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