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#17 – A Special Day (for Black Italian Cinema)

Posted on May 31, 2016 in The Wall | 0 comments

Kassim Yassin Saleh

#17 – A Special Day (for Black Italian Cinema)

Afrodescendant filmmakers based in Italy have been showing evidence of impatience for some time. Enough of waiting for manna from heaven, they started to roll up their sleeves and take their destiny in their hands. Many actors, already in the 1980s (such as Antonio Campobasso) or in the 1990s (Salvatore Marino, Jonis Bascir, Félicité Mbezele, Oumar Mamadou Ba, Hedy Krissane), having experienced frustration confronted with an Italian mainstream film and media industry proposing them only minor roles, weakly sketched and stereotyped, felt the necessity of creating narratives and searching for an audience, through the theater mostly or even film. In these years this urge has been producing several theatrical productions, mostly one-man shows still, some shorts but many scenarios or subjects were simply left in the drawer. More recently, thanks also the revolution of digital technology we’ve have been witnessing a new wave of actors aspiring to pass behind the camera: Tunisian Anis Gharbi (To Paradise), Tunisian Ahmed Hafiene (Poveri diavoli), Nigerian Alfie Nze (Alfie Comes to Koko), French-Algerian Nadia Kibout (Le ali velate) have been experiencing this challenge, with results that will need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. For some of them, this need is combined with another necessity that was less evident at the beginning, that is the urge of networking.

That’s why we recently saluted as a good signal the experience of Minister, a Fide Dayo feature produced and starred by Juliet Esey Joseph, a Nigeria-born actress based in Italy since the late 1990s. The name of Juliet is in the credits also of A Special Day, a short film premiered out of competition at Cannes Film Festival in the Festival Corner: written and directed by two other actors, Djibouti-born Kassim Yassin and Gabon-born Gaston Biwolé, it was produced by the directors, together with Esey Joseph and Sidy Diop, a Senegal-born actor, starring in the film, together with Yassin and other Afrodescendant actors (Dolores Gianoli, Emmanuel Dabone) and actors of diverse or Italian origins. For Biwolé, in these days performing in a theatrical production called Cristo clandestino (Clandestine Christ) and Yassin, who is shooting another project of short/web series called Sottomessa (Submissive), both coming basically from an experience of acting, it was the first collaboration but what is remarkable, as observed in the case of Minister is this new, promising spirit of enterprise and mutual aid that emerges from this short as well.

The story takes place in downtown Rome, a day after the Paris attacks. Thomas Sankara (Yassin) is an Afrodescendant dishwasher, working in a restaurant, together with Dorian, of Albanian origins (Massimo Vitrullo). So different those guys, even if they are close friends: Thomas is politically engaged and a practicing Muslim, while Dorian thinks only to scratch cards and football. For Thomas is a special day, possibly linked to a white boy in a picture he keeps attached to the wall in the kitchen. Their friends have been invited to a bar in the afternoon to share a very important news. Some of them just don’t know each other and will cross before in the street. Such as Dolores (Dolores Gianoli), a sophisticated young black girl who just wants to distance from other black guys “from the hood”; Paola (Miriam Galanti), an activist for peace in love with a young Japanese aspiring singer who calls herself Rihanna (Linda Chang); Bilal (Sidy Diop), a street vendor of handmade objects who is stopped and moralized by a black officer (Emmanuel Dabone). For a game of fate, they will meet and be confronted with an accident, to reveal the islamophobic hysteria contaminating Western imaginary after Paris attacks.

Taken from an idea of Kassim Yassim, written together with Biwolé in a tone blending comedy and drama and expressing the thousand aspects of diversity in contemporary Italian society, A Special Days of course will not void the naivety of a first work for some misses in the cast and in the script to be considered almost inevitable in a logic of low budget, independent production, but the directors show to be in control of visual and aural challenges of filming, black and white photography and crosscutting  editing sound rather effective such as the Italian direct sound and the soundtrack, written by Nicola Lerra with the special participation of two brilliant street musicians. I had the occasion to meet Yassin, who was in Cannes to support proudly his short film, together with Biwolé, and felt confronted with an incredible urge of expression through the visual, connected with the experience of Afrodescendant people and of immigrants based in Italy and a strong determination to overcome the indifference of white screenwriters, directors and producers in order to reach the goal. It’s time to do something, helping this creative and plural energy to reinvigorate an Italian cinema appearing more and more old, umbilical, and unattractive to international audience.

In the Picture: Kassim Yassin

Contributors: Leonardo De Franceschi

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