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Giovanna Taviani introduces the tenth edition of the Salina Doc Fest.


by Giovanna Taviani


A photo of ChantierA, film presented in the Focus Algeria section.


Algiers. The white screen in a cinema hall just renovated in the popular neighborhood of Meissonier. Even today, like yesterday , in a country besieged by censorship, the cinema hall is empty. A young director comes in and sits in the first row. The lights fade out, the screening begins. A child runs down the stairs of a white house blinded by the sun, walking quickly thanks to the editing tricks. As prompted by the power of images and music, the child is now him, the young director, who, with microphone and camera, rushes out of the room to give voice to his city, battered and immobilized by the Islamic regime.

In this first sequence of Bla Cinima by Lamine Ammar-Khodia, one of the three great films that Federico Rossin has chosen for the Focus Algeria sull’Altro Mediterraneo,  is the meaning of this edition of  SalinaDocfest . What the press doesn’t say and what the media don’t show, is told by cinema  and, thanks to the cinema, a Mediterranean civilization get recognized and reconstituted.

We had closed the last edition speaking about “Conflicts and Suburbs”. We still had in our eyes the broken and interrupted images of the war in Syria, when the Syrian conflict has become unsustainable and in the same time from the European Parliament in Brussels, where the SalinaDocfest was hosted  last November with the movie A Syrian love story,  an appeal to Europe  went out for a solution to the conflict in the Middle East. On the same days at the Bataclan in Paris dozens of young died in a nightclub, and  few months later, in the heart of Brussels, other young people, lost in the desert of Western welfare,  made other choices and opted for the road of hate.

That’s the  point where our imagination has said stop and has triggered the emergency brake of Benjaminian’s memory, that yesterday as today is acting in the important moments of the train of History. If cinema and literature have the prophetic power to anticipate the future, or to engrave  the ” flesh of real“, as  Saviano writes  who undertook from the beginning  this journey together with us, we try to turn over the horizon with the power of documentary, and to postulate, behind the chain of ruins and destruction, a different and possible scenario. Finally here is the theme Madre Mediterraneo/L’Altro Mediterraneo (Mother Mediterranea/The Other Mediterraneam) that indicates a new utopian thought, crazy and antagonist, that says other and refers to other, as in the island of Utopia of Tommaso Moro, of which today, together with the Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, we celebrate the five hundredth anniversary. We can not stand  watching anymore. We must testify. And we must do it through words.

“Vincenzo, my friend, I know that between Zarzis and Lampedusa, on the other coast of the sea, you bury the bodies of my brothers” -. It’s  Mohsen who writes from an island of Tunisia to the island of Lampedusa, in Sponde nel sicuro mare del nord, the story of a friendship through letters of an epistolary between a Tunisian and a Sicilian , separated by sixty miles of  Mediterranean sea: “I know how you feel. After doing it for a long time. It’s hard, my friend, to be witness of all this. ” For many years, he has collected what’s left of shipwrecked victims with which he set up  a Museum of Memory on the beach in front of his house , so that no one forgets; while Vincenzo, on the other side of the Mediterranean, gives burial to the bodies of the sea in the cemetery of Lampedusa, of which he is the keeper. Two brothers who met through the written word and who discover that they share the same philanthropy: the one of those who are fighting to bury their loved ones, yesterday as today. From Antigone of Sophocleans  tragedy, which opposes the law of power to bury his brother; To Saul, the protagonist of the film winner of the Special Jury Award at Cannes 2015, the Sonderkommando jew prisoner , forced to assist the Nazis in their work of destruction, putting at risk his own life and those of other prisoners to bury the body of a son escaped from gassing.

We can be defined Humans only through Culture.

“I feel I exist when I film, when I tell something.” It is Abu  speaking , personally articulating  the story of Les Sauteurs: a refugee from Mali staying in Gurugu from one year, a mountain above the Spanish enclave of Melilla, in northern  Morocco, he is waiting to jump the border to reach Europe. Two friends, two directors have asked to him to tell  about his life with others in the forest. “They gave me some money to buy me a video-camera. An important commitment for me. A responsibility that motivated me a lot. ” Abu assumes self-consciousness only when he decides to take the video-camera to film his story and the story of his brothers : filtered by the eyes of his video-camera, the reality  vitalizes and address itself towards new horizons.

Under the look of Abu, the obsolete objects coming by the sea  from Zarzis, broken bottles, amulets, strings and broken shoes, come back to life and form, in the hands and feet of those who survived, those who do not surrender to fate and those who want to jump the wall of indifference. In contrast to these images, filtered by the colorless eyes of  western satellites, those figures of immigrants lose life and dignity: there, we see them from  far away in single row, along the border surrounded by the police. Small and alone, silent, nameless, without identity.

Only together we can change the course of our destiny in the world, through new communities of resistance, like the one of They will have to kill us first,  with music considered as an opposition weapon against Islamic fundamentalism. “We have no more fear: music protects us,” the singer Kahira declares at the end of the movie, talking from Mali ,  the same country where  Abu run away. She is still there, exiliated from her home town, fighting from several years  against the regime in order to do what she loves: to sing. She has good memories of her land, which was  the home of kindness and freedom, until everything stopped. In 2012, the jihadists have taken the control of the north and they imposed one of the strictest interpretations of Sharia law in the story: “They banned music and I have ceased to exist, because the music is the only oxygen of  human being. Now all I want is to go back to sing in my country in Timbuktu. ” And here also is the counterpoint between the fixed and stereotyped images of Isis soldiers and those vital and collective ones reshaped by music: rap of young Malians at the beginning of the film, the women’s singing  wrapped in  blue, yellow and  orange, giving hugs during  the last sequence of the film.

New heavens , new horizons. As in those wonderful landscapes of fire of African soil in Shashamane, appearing for the first time to our pure and precious eyes, as in a new Promised Land. This time it is the  reverse journey to in Ethiopia of those who emigrated to Jamaica, Spain and France – where ” what is poorly taught  is that a black can never do anything good” – in the nineteenth century, and that today  decides to return to their origins, to regain possession of their identity. We rejected them: now they want to go  back home, to return home. And we together with them.

Across the Mediterranean, not to leave, but to return. “In life you have to make choices and sacrifices for what you believe. I struggled and I saw  my brothers  and my sisters suffer to make home  the place we wanted . It was not easy and still it is not .

It is this constant search of a promised land, a place to call home, where the membership takes the place of wandering, that combine the films of this edition, dedicated to the dream of the Mediterranean . If the skies of modernity have become “flared”, to quote De Benedetti, devoid of a common horizon in which to inscribe the destinies of man, who “are lost as streamers or dragged back on him in a tangle,” it is up to  us to rebuild a “sky dome” to turn it over our heads, put an end to our adventure of orphans and return to dream of a Mediterranean united. As it happens in the interior of the Algerian slaughter in Dans ma tête, where the two young protagonists pierce the sky with the power of imagination, love and dream: to leave for the West.

And with starry nights close most of the films that we have chosen. From a celebration sky in Zarzis, which turns  the eyes of  Mohsen  with fireworks  colors , the flaming sky   red lava coloured from the Mount Etna in Due Sicilie, seen from the eyes of the paladin Orlando, watching us, stripped of his clothes and of his arms, to remind us, as now, that the Mediterranean – Sicily and first of all – is the home of the epic cunto (storyteller) and of the highest oral traditions, combined by the countries of the two shores. For this we have chosen to inaugurate this tenth edition with a new Sicilia Doc  National Contest, to witness a new desire to tell, by the Sicilian filmmakers or authors of Sicilian stories that go back in time to move forward, who rediscover the traditions to invent the future. As in  the painting by Klee, evoked by Benjamin in his Angelus Novus: the Angel of History has wide eyes, wings spread and his face turned to the past, where he only sees disasters, deaths and ruins; while a storm blowing from Paradise, caught in his wings, drives him irresistibly into the future.

The SalinaDocfest tells stories. The narrative documentary tells stories. Cinema tells stories. When men will loose the power to narrate, they will also loose  humanity, and the world, without it,  will be unknowable. Moni Ovadia  remembered about this months ago in Palermo, while receiving  f the honorary citizenship, Moni Ovadia, who was a guest with us at SalinaDocfest. Roberto Saviano writes about it  today: the tale is what we have left and what saves us. Same Reminds Gianfranco Rosi in that necessary movie that  is  Fuocoammare, with the  prayer rite of those Ethiopian refugees, Syrians, Eritreans, who sing their tragedy into an ancient and modern rap narrative, to thank the community of Lampedusa that embraced  them “life is a risk and we took a chance. The sea is not a road, but we have gone through. And now we are saved. ”

We watch  on the news, in these last years, the faces of those same refugees,  the coasts of a tormented Lampedusa, the wreckage of boats on our shores.

Still in Fuocoammare the light changes. The look of Rosi probe deeply the depths of history, like a descent into hell of the dark underwater , inspecting inside the minds of  people, as when, among  castaways,  found himself next to the bodies in agony on a boat, his look crossed to their look, fixing them with respect, pain, in silence. The daily life of the community of Lampedusa proceeds, thanks to the wise alternate editing by Jacopo Quadri, between the stories of its inhabitants and the continuous landings of refugees , between the cries of the survivors and the silence of the island, among the rescue operations lead  by the local navy  and the small gestures of Samuel, the child protagonist with a lazy eye, which sees over and sees better, playing to shoot the birds, because it has lost his innocence.

Two realities that cross but do not meet, excepted  for the ph. doctor, if not in the eyes of the documentarist , in those epic total shooting on Lampedusa rocks, fierce and beautiful in its solitude; in panoramic interior lens, where time slows down and gaze proceeds by subtraction. A gaze that observes without rhetoric and at the same time without the detachment of a simple reporter. A new, human , and participated gaze, of the Italian Authors documentary , which will be discussed with Corrado Formigli, which renewed the television report with a narrative cut that much owes to the documentary.

We start again from  this new humanity and this renewed desire to tell our destiny into the world. Because only telling it, we can hope to understand it and, perhaps, to change it. For this reason we are happy to reward the father of storytellers, Mimmo Cuticchio, and host him   in our little island of Utopia. He will tell, again, but in an ever new way, the story of Colapesce, son of a fisherman from Messina, who  breath like a fish and fell into the deep abyss, to return with hidden treasures and tell the stories that he had seen. One day he disappeared beneath the sea bottom. No news from him for a long time. Yet, even today, after almost a thousand years, we still remember him. And we tell our children, our grandchildren, our students. We imagine him  under the slopes of Etna, keeping strong our Sicily, the island loved and hated narrated by Pirandello, Sciascia, Vittorini, Verga, Tomasi di Lampedusa, the most ruthless and visionary writers of our twentieth-century literature.

We imagine him as a witness of the tragedies of the Mediterranean, in the silence of the sea floor, where the ancient treasures have become shipwrecks, floating bottles, plastic jars and broken shoes. Objects floating in the womb of the Mediterranean, as before birth and after death. A metaphysics of anguish, which awakens the conscience and imagination and outlines new routes towards future horizons. Other skies of the Mediterranean, that we all have the duty to testify.

Welcome to Salinadocfest.

Giovanna Taviani