Winners of African Festival Verona 2015
by Sherif Awad
Our week in Verona at the 35th edition of its African film festival allowed us to discover many beautiful places and activities that should be experienced by everyone interested in discovering Africa and its cinema. There is the African Museum that was founded by the Missionari Comboniani, co-organizer of the festival, and whose building is at the same area. The museum features a private and permanent collection of African heritage including rare musical instruments used by African tribes, African masks and costumes in addition to rear photography dated to more than hundred years. There was also a contemporary exhibition titled City of 1000 Colors by Senegalese artist Mohamadou Ndoye Douts who also designed the poster of this 35th edition. The Nigrizia Non-Profit Organisation, part of the mission’s activities, also supports the museum and additionally publishes an African cultural magazine carrying the name of the organization.
Before finalizing the award given by our jury, we had a chance of visiting Juliet’s House, a tourist attraction where a bronze statue of Juliet is standing. The house was owned by the Capello Family, a name not too far from Capulet, the Juliet’s family. The house is said to inspire Shakespeare to write the most romantic yet tragic story of all times: Romeo & Juliet.
At the closing night, our jury decided to give the Best Long Film Prize to the Egyptian film Décor, a black and white drama about a woman caught in the Egyptian films she has been seeing until the line between her life and her imagination are getting thicker and blurrier. The jury was impressed by the complexity of the subject and the courage by writer-director Ahmed Abdallah to show a character in search of a new path in her personal and professional life. The film also featured high quality production values and unconventional techniques that added to the strength of the script. A Special Mention went to the Ethiopian film Difret by writer-director Zeresenay Mehari for its approach to present a real-life issue about young women across the African continent and how they are still becoming victims of forced marriages according to some tribal habits that become barricades in social development.
In most of the short films selected by the festival and viewed by our jury, it was noted that children were main characters in each films. The Best Short Film Kwaku by Ghanaian Anthony Ni was noted for its freshness and liveliness in treating the story of the eight year-old African boy Kwaku who is trying to get his old grandmother a wheelchair to help her in her movement around the house. A special mention went also to all the children actors and actresses, the protagonists of most of the short films of the festival, for their ability to express and to contend with the professionals who played their parents. They represent a hope for African cinema in particular and hope for African in general.
Next to the mission where we stayed during the festival, also an old palace called Palazzo di Teodorico which was transformed into a hostel for budget travelers. There, it is said that during the nights the voices of its old owners. Around the space, every year during the Halloween, lot of shows and masked celebrations take place. Thank God we did not stay up there.
On our way back, the Verona Train Station featured a bookshop featuring a poster of one of the great and classic American stars, Burt Lancaster holding The Leopard, the novel he started in its film adaptation back in 1963.