African Festival Verona 2015
by Sherif Awad
In Northern Italy, the city of Verona was not only famous for its artistic heritage and its Roman Theatre, but for being the city where three Shakespeare's plays took place; namely Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew.
Also since 1981, Verona started to host an African Film Festival that was co-founded that year by Nigrizia dei Missionari Comboniani and il Centro Missionario Diocesano and later promoted and managed by a Committee consisting of Fondazione Nigrizia onlus and Progettomondo MLAL. In 35 years, the festival showed films revolving around the African continent and/or made by African and non-African filmmakers with parallel events like art exhibitions and artistic talks in order to create a cultural dialog between the not-so-far-away African continent and European countries. The African festival in Verona also collaborates with Africa, Asia and Latin America Festival in Milan, ImmaginAfrica in Padua, Balafon Film Festival in Bari, FESPACO in Burkina Faso and ZIFF in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Due to my parallel curatorial work in Luxor African Film Festival in Egypt, the African Festival in Verona invited me to join a jury consisting of Tahar Hani, a journalist at France24, Mariarosa Di Nubila, an intercultural learning trainer who also SMIAFestival (San Marino International Arts Festival- Festival of young knowledge) and blogger Karim Metref. In addition to our jury, there is another prizes to be delivered by students at Verona High Schools and University.
The opening film this year was screened like every year at the Roman theatre of the city. It was a comedy from Algeria entitled Certified Halal by director Mahmoud Zemmouri. The events takes place in a remote village two young women, Sultana and Kenza, decide to say no to their family traditions. Director Zemmouri succeeded to show the confrontation between tradition and modernity, and how Arab women are seen in Muslim society today with still existing denunciation. From the technical side, the cinematography by Bernard Vervoort captured the beauty of Algerian landscapes during the night and the morning. The film is impossible to watch for non-Algerian without English or French subtitles since the actors really throw their lines in a very fast speed.
One of the comic yet profound short films we are seeing is Discipline by Egyptian Swiss writer-director Christophe Saber. The action takes place in a Lausanne grocery store, where a father loses patience with his daughter, which prompts a woman to intervene, claiming that he violent towards his daughter and he can be convicted of violence. Other clients of the supermarket join the conversation that reflect the cultural borders that are still surrounding people under the same sky.
Another interesting short Mamans (Mothers) by Senegalese Maïmouna Doucouré shows the effects of polygamy on African families which even immigrated to Europe. The story focus on eight-years old Aida, who lives with her mother, played by Maïmouna Gueye in a Paris apartment. One day, her father returns from a trip to Senegal, their countries of origin, accompanied by the young Senegalese, Rama, who he presents as his second wife. Aida, sensitive to the distress of her mother, decides to resolve the situation. More about the selection of Verona festival next week.