The African Film Festival of Milan came into being in 1991 as an opportunity to get to know the issues and languages of new cinemas from Africa and the African diaspora in the world. For the first nine years, the African Film Festival of Milan screened exclusively films from Africa and the diaspora, helping to enrich the Italian cinema panorama by bringing to Milan, and then circulating throughout Italy, hundreds of films from these virtually unknown cinemas. Thanks to the vision of Africa and the world by African filmmakers, the Festival offers a concrete alternative to the mainstream culture and information of the mass media.
In the last half of the 1990s, new geographical horizons and new sections, like the video section highlighting the advent of the digital era, were added to the festival programme.
With the Windows Section, from 2000, the Festival crossed the borders of Africa and black culture, opening up to a dimension of “métisse” cinema where cultural and racial boundaries were becoming increasingly blurred. With this section, films from the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Middle East, Asia and South America began to appear on the festival’s screens. The richness and variety of this film production led us to rewrite the regulations of the competition and radically modify the structure of the festival.
In 2003, the African Film Festival of Milan took the name of Festival of African, Asian and Latin American Cinema, extending the competition to the cinema of these three continents. The fundamental new feature of this change are the two sections “WINDOWS ON THE WORLD” FEATURE FILM COMPETITION (competitive section of feature films from Africa, Asia and Latin America) and the “WINDOWS ON THE WORLD” DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION (competitive section of documentaries from Africa, Asia and Latin America). Alongside the Windows on the World Competitive Sections there is the PANORAMA OF AFRICAN CINEMA section for all the new African productions not in the competitive sections.
From this year, the PANORAMA OF AFRICAN CINEMA also becomes competitive with the creation of a Prize for the Best African Film of the Festival (without distinction of section or category).
The other sections in the festival are the Short Film Competition, Documentary and Non-Fiction Competition, the Retrospective and the Thematic Section which continue to be dedicated to African cinema to keep alive the tradition and specificity of the festival.
There are multiple reasons for opening up the festival to the other continents in the South of the world. In the first place, the African filmmakers themselves wanted to take part in a competition that was not restricted to African films but opened the door to a confrontation with other cinemas. Multicultural dialogue is further enriched by multiplying the visions of these hidden cinemas.
This way, there is the possibility of inviting directors from the three continents to the festival for an exchange with professionals from Italy and Europe, as well as the opportunity of stimulating South-South co-productions. With the involvement of the cinemas of Asia and Latin America there is also the ambition of giving new impetus to African cinema both in terms of the economic development of production and introducing African professionals into the international cultural and film sector.
The specific objectives of the festival are:
- to increase in-depth knowledge on the issues and languages of lesser known cinemas and highlight the potential of the artistic creativity of the three continents;
- to convey an image of current events and culture of Africa, Asia and Latin America through the point of view of local directors;
- to offer a concrete alternative to the mainstream culture and information of the mass media in relation to the South of the world;
- to give directors an opportunity to enter into contact with the European institutions of film production and distribution;
- to stimulate a cultural exchange between artists, the public, journalists and professionals in the audiovisual sector;
- to foster relations of exchange between the institutions, festivals and European bodies active in the promotion of African cinema;
- to create a place of annual reflection on the new trends and prospects of the cinema in Africa, Asia and Latin America;
- to offer foreign communities in Italy opportunities to be reunited with their own cultures;
- to foster the introduction of audiovisuals in schools as teaching tools for visual education and for an intercultural approach.
The Festival audiences
In the Italian context, there are still great delays and shortcomings in information, access and cooperation with the cultural and cinema of the countries in the South of the world. At the same time, the phenomenon of immigration has considerably increased in the past ten years. In these conditions there is the risk of a standardization of the cultural offer and of a total loss of interest in the cultures of developing countries. Alternative film distribution through festivals and film seasons remains the only possibility to highlight and give value to films from the South of the world. There is a very great potential audience. The interest in an alternative and concrete offer to the mainstream culture and information in the cinema and mass media is alive and always ready for quality cultural propositions.
The African Film Festival has been able to count of a public of “fans” which has increased each year. Over the years, the public has followed the evolution of African cinema and is fascinated by the cinema from other continents thanks to the Windows on the World section. The festival addresses not only the Milanese public, but a selection of films from the festival circulates in other Italian cities. Cooperation with the Museum of the Cinema in Turin is important, which dedicates a week to a selection of films from the festival.
As well as an adult public, the project also addresses pupils and teachers of primary, middle and high schools.
The COE, since the beginning of its activities, has paid particular attention to schools for the training of educators and young people with an open mentality and attitude to an intercultural dimension, offering didactic courses that privilege artistic-expressive productions as instruments for knowledge of oneself and of others.
The organization in the festival of a Schools Section meets the need to fill the few opportunities for young people to see films from directors from the South of the world as well as creating the conditions at the base for the growth of a public sensitive to cultural innovation.