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14th European Film-Week in Eritrea

After a month that saw Girl trip star Tiffany Haddish and Soul singer Joss Stones visit Eritrea on separate occasions, this week the European Film week will mark its 14th installation in as many years in town and, boy, did they bring a treat!

Officially opened with a reception in the beautiful setting of the Casa Degli Italiani in Asmara, this year’s edition of the annual European film Week began with the screening of a film from Italy. This year’s opening film, entitled ‘Scusate Se Esisto’, roughly translated as ‘Sorry for Existing’, tells the story of a woman named Serana. With a brilliant career in London, Serena, an architect originally from Abruzzo, decides to return to work in Italy, in Rome. So, she decides to bid in the tender to work in the redevelopment of the Corviale district. As Serena realizes that in a world dominated by males it’s unlikely that a female architect could win the tender, she decides to pass herself as a man, asking her friend, Fracesco, to take her place. It was a perfect way to open the film week.

The six-day fest which is aimed at introducing and promoting European culture in Eritrea, organized by the Embassies of the European Union Member States together with the Delegation of the European Union to the State of Eritrea, clearly was already a hit.

Furthermore, the reception saw the handing out of prizes to five top winners of the recently started Drawing competition. The Casa Degli Italiani will be displaying the 30 top entries for the rest of the week.

A total of 14 films from countries as diverse as Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, France, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, The United Kingdom and Kenya were selected for this year’s edition of the European Film Week. The 14th European Film Week will remain open and free of charge from 19 to 24 February 2018, and a two-day screening will also be held at Keren Cinema in Keren City from 28 February to 1 March 2018.

On the second day of the festival, as I sat there and watched the Czech romantic comedy ‘You kiss Like a God’, the on screen character, Helena Altmanova, who is an amicable high school teacher of French and literature, always handled tricky situations with students as well as unforeseen moments in her personal life with a cool head. And her extended family provides plenty of opportunities. Co-existing in the same household with her ex-husband, successful novelist Karel, her widowed sister Krystina’s problems, her son Adam’s marital troubles, and her elderly mother left Helena so busy that she feels there’s no time left for herself or her own emotions. And despite all that, one day the thing that usually comes when we have already given up on our dreams actually does come. Under unhappy circumstances, Helena meets paramedic Frantisek. And she totally falls head over heels in love!

What was striking to me was the similarity between Eritrean Culture and Czechs. The extended family, the desire to help others; Helena does all these in the movie by helping her grieving sister, her son and her nagging elderly mother. It is magical how one can easily relate whatever we see on the big screens to what is evident in our surroundings.

Film festivals are an eye into another world of cinema; these films take you to a different world. It really expands the horizons and understanding between the different cultures. Film festivals are a vital link in the chain of global film culture. It’s sharing. Thanks to global digitalization film festivals are now an exceptional tool for crossing the communication channels from the most distant places. Film festivals are helping at the frontline of an increasingly polarized world. Speaking multiple languages, they give you the ability to hear a rich diversity of voices from the divided areas. Whatever happens in the farthest place of the world, it occupies the festival screens within the next year. The information you get is much more complex than in TV news.

In the century of ‘clip thinking’ a film festival is very often the only place where you can actually watch and enjoy film, without fast forwarding it, without pausing it. So, the purpose would be in allowing people a sort of patient communication and experiencing things, whether it is art or idea delivered through documentary film. We need this patience at the moment. And we do need to communicate. Coming together to explore new cultures and celebrate creativity will always be important, and film is the perfect medium for that. Visual literacy is a 21st Century aptitude and film festivals bring together the highest-quality stories to learn from. Film festivals exist to inspire audiences and keep the excitement alive for cinematic experiences.

One important purpose of film festivals in the 21th century is that they are playing a significant role as an alternative distribution channel for non-commercial films. In addition, festivals can offer a communal, shared and unique experience. Film festivals can create a needed platform for meaningful discussions. The European Film Week is a good example of this: it brings people close to the environmental questions through fascinating and surprising films in a unique milieu that is profoundly connected to the European nature.

I have always gone out of my way to prove that movies are the art form which have the most impact on people. People don’t remember paintings, poems, or jokes or, even, lyrics of a song as much as they remember good movies. I have always loved movies for so many reasons ? they can move us to tears, to ‘laugh out loud’ laughter, or even make us stand up and cheer. They are touchstones to our lives and a mirror into our world. Every movie, like a book, is a vision of another human being. No matter how much we pretend to be different, movies are a testimony to the fact that all human beings are connected through one thought or another. And just like movies as the vision of another human being, they are also a vision of another culture and way of life.

It is easy to understand then why the European film week is always a hit when it comes to Asmara, and just like the previous years it didn’t disappoint. The diversity of movies had their audiences lost deep in story lines, head over heels over characters, moved by soundtracks, challenged by paradoxes.

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