Art and culture

INITIATIVES

Italian-Kenyan empathy between images and memories

IIC's initiative with filmmakers and refugees

07-12-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo

What can Italian "family films" shot in superotto and the memory of refugees in Kenya have in common?
It was told in the best possible way by a splendid initiative that brought together art, memory recovery and different cultures came to fruition last Sunday in Nairobi, with the presentation of the short documentary "Shine Again," made by the Turin-based association "Superottimisti" thanks to the initiative of the Italian Cultural Institute in Nairobi and the JRS refugee center in Kenya.
Superottimisti is a pool of filmmakers and educators, directed by Giulio Pedretti and Giulia Carbonero, which recovers in Italy old private films preserved or found by families or descendants of video amateurs of the last century who shot on film, and uses them for social, educational or popular purposes. In the case of the Nairobi initiative involving Pedretti and Carbonero, the workshop involved young students taking visual arts courses through an agreement between JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) and the American University of New Hampshire.


Thus was born the collaboration that saw the "Superoptimists" present the concept and some images from their archive to the students, some of whom have terrible experiences behind them, as refugees from the Rwandan genocide and the civil war in Congo.
The result was a team effort in which old Italian family films comment on the memories of one of the refugees, a Rwandan girl. The result astonished but convinced everyone during the preview screening that took place in the cinema hall of the capital's "Unseen" venue.
"At first we took it as a great challenge," Giulio Pedretti explains to Malindikenya.net, "because if when we do these workshops with students we face the difficulties of the temporal distance between the footage and our era, and consequently the extraordinary mutations of technology and the sense of the intimate, of the private in the world of the image, here in Kenya we also had to deal with the geographical distance and the cultural distance of those who participated in this group work.


Yet, looking at "Shine Again" and even more so after listening to the JRS boys, you wouldn't think so.
"In fact, an unexpected empathy was triggered, absurdly more spontaneous and direct than with the Italian boys," Giulia Carbonero confirms.The refugees, who have heavy memories imprinted in their minds but no archive of images, found relationships with memories of other people in other times and in another "world. The intimacy unveiled, both in images and in stories, is the key to get in touch with the memory of another and understand the importance of documents that show the truth, scenes of life without filters, as opposed to the transience of today's videos that put on the stages of social media a counterfeit reality."


The director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Nairobi, Elena Gallenca, is also convinced of the goodness of a work on the Italy-Kenya axis that will surely have a follow-up and other developments.
"An initiative with a very positive outcome," Gallenca concludes, "because through the recovery and enhancement of 'family cinema,' the Nairobi workshop showed that there are no unbridgeable distances and that one of the answers to the stereotyped and often unnatural images of our times can be precisely to create common paths on the thread of memory and give them a deeper and less transitory meaning, that of art." For those who want to know more about the work of the superoptimists (pun between the work of enthusiasts who believe in it and the old superotto films, precisely): www.superottimisti.it

TAGS: filmmakermemoriarifugiatiiicgallencadocumentari

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