HOW WAS LA GUARIMBA BORN?
Giulio Vita was born in Italy and grew up in Venezuela. He studied Journalism in Caracas and, after being kidnapped and tortured by the police for protesting against the government, he decided to return to Italy. He went on to study Cinema in Madrid. There he met Sara Fratini, a Venezuelan illustrator who was studying Fine Arts at the time. After graduation, they started drinking beer in a city center bar, complaining about how superficial the world of film festivals was. And so, as if for a game, they decided to create La Guarimba.
At the end of 2012, Sara and Giulio went to live in Amantea, the small village in Calabria where Giulio’s grandparents are from. They gave themselves a year’s time. Sara started her project as an illustrator and Giulio started producing what would be the first edition of the film festival.
WHAT IS LA GUARIMBA?
In the beginning, La Guarimba was born as a short film festival and an event. It was registered as a Cultural Association, then smarter people than us called it Social Innovation, and later the volunteers and directors who came to the first editions renamed it Community Experience because of our way of doing. But for us it is a life’s project, a bet won over pessimism, the global economy and the myth that tells children that there is nothing to do in the South.
WHAT IS OUR MISSION?
Our main goals is to bring cinema back to people and people back to the cinema.
Creating a Multicultural Area in which there is a political connection with the world. La Guarimba must contribute to creating an atmosphere of empathy, understanding, integration and action.
Reintroducing cinema as a social act with which we oppose to living in an increasingly individualistic world. We need to create a meeting point where we can share ideas and live a collective but also a personal experience.
WHAT IS OUR PROCESS?
One of the keys to La Guarimba’s growth is the creation of a strong community through film festivals, cultural events, film residencies and educational workshops in schools. These events promote collaboration, creative initiative and discovery through Montessori educational practices, cooperative learning and care for the environment.
The people involved in this process are the artists selected from around the world and hosted in Amantea during the festival, the volunteers and team who work on each initiative, the professionals training in the residencies, and the middle and high school students who make animated films through the educational workshops. This openness to diversity generates a constant flow of new perspectives and skills that flow through our organization, changing it every day.
Formation comes through many aspects. From sharing guest houses, to the care and structuring of each training activity so that they can be carried out in complete autonomy and creative freedom by the participants, according to the Montessori principles of empowerment through clear rules, freedom to choose, to make mistakes and to develop their own path in a natural and spontaneous way. They work as a team in a safe environment, where they challenge themselves and collaborate with others in full trust, both guests and organizers, ensuring a relationship of mutual and constant growth.
OUR COMMITMENT IN THE TERRITORY
We’ve always used culture as a tool of integration and civil coexistence, fighting to give voice to those that don’t have the possibility to invoke their rights and defending the importance of the union of different cultures.
Our organisation actively took position to report the human rights violation in Venezuela in the last 30 years. Through our program El Guayabo – The Venezuelan Diaspora, we are committed to tell the stories of people that lived the state of political refugees.
We welcome works made in the countries where migrants coming to Europe come from, thanks to the special selections Karmala and MigrArti and the CinemAmbulante film program. This space allows us to share their stories, without filters, giving us the possibility to show the world the struggles they live and why we need to activate logics of welcome and solidarity from institutions and associations.
During the years, we’ve being exposing ourselves publicly in order to support the cause. We’ve reported the abuses on the young workers of the agriculture fields in Amantea and the many episodes of racism they experience.
On July 2020, we reported to the press the surreal story of Abbas Mian Nadeem, a young Pakistan immunocompromised that was mistaken for one of the migrants sent away from Amantea because they were positive to the Covid-19. After this, we received death threats from ‘Ndrangheta. We worked together with the authorities to allow Abbas’ return to Amantea, helping him to find legal assistance and involving Italian and European parliamentarians to investigate the case.
We’ve created a network of associations at the local level to face together racism cases in a systematic and coordinated way, using the boundless language of art and culture.
We’ve organised workshops, meetings and screenings with the refugees reception center in Amantea, working with cultural mediators to allow their integration with the community.
At the end of 2021, we bought an abandoned land located in the center of Amantea, to open a new space dedicated to culture, starting from July 2022, where we can host events and moments in which artists, cultural organizations, institutions, activists and citizens can find meeting points for new ideas. We decided to call this space IL TERRENITO, that in 2023 hosted the 11th edition of the festival.
We have started working to build, in the next few years, the first House of Culture in Amantea and redeliver an open and regenerated space to the community, with the aim of increasing the social capital and quality of life of the inhabitants of the area.
A NEVER ENDING SOCIAL BATTLE
2020 has been the hardest year for our organization.
In February, the municipality of Amantea has been wound up for fraudulent manipulation and mafia infiltrations. The government has been substituted by temporary receiverships for the next 18 months.
The unexpected health crisis left us without certainty for many months: the Region of Calabria didn’t publish any cultural grant, leaving us without an important financial source, and many companies withdrew their sponsorship proposals. We kept working without knowing if we would be able to manage to make the festival in presence.
THE BATTLE AGAINST THE DISTRIBUTORS
When summer came, we engaged in a battle together with open-air free cinema organizations such as I Ragazzi del Cinema America in Rome, Scendi C’è il Cinema in Milan and FurgonCINEMA in Central Italy. Together, we reported the lobbying policy and the blackmails of distributors and cinema owners associations, Anica and Anec, which gave written instruction to Italian and foreign distributors to not release film screening rights to free film event in the Italian territory. The result was 235 denied permits out of 263 demands, despite all the films already ended their period of commercial exploitation in theatres.
The societies involved in the scandal responded roughly, calling our claims “fake news” and threatening us with legal repercussions. The Italian parliament debated with an official question on this issue. On June 24th 2020, the Antitrust opened an investigation towards Anica, Anec and Anec Lazio because of “obstacles for the concession of films to the open-air free cinemas”. The final sentence was announced on March 26, 2022, when the Antitrust announced that the three associations had exceeded “the boundaries of lawful association activity to standardize the strategy of distribution companies towards denials and constraints in the issue of licenses to free arenas “, In violation of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Article 2 of Law no. 287/90.
This story showed, once again, how our activity is necessary to promote a vision of cultural accessibility, free from market logics and centralisation of power.
THE OPENING OF PARCO LA GROTTA
Despite all these events, we managed to organize the 2020 edition in presence. Our last obstacles were the conditions of La Grotta Park, which remained shut down for the whole year with no maintenance. We decided to take charge of all the work that our institutions haven’t made and we collected our team, calling people from Amantea to help us. All together, we worked hard to clean and restore the park, allowing the opening to the public and giving it back to the community.
THE URBAN REGENERATION PROJECT IN THE PARKING
In 2021, despite all the work of the previous year, we couldn’t access the Park.
In fact, in January, part of the historic center collapsed, affecting the only public green space in Amantea. Despite the various promises of local politics, the safety works of the historic center were never completed and the park was declared uninhabitable.
We looked for an alternative place for a long time and we identified a horrendous space, a symbol of the social degradation that the town is experiencing: an abandoned car park, without any maintenance for several years and that became, over time, an open-air dump.
When we arrived at the parking lot, the situation was grim: piles of garbage covered the whole space, rotten food, dead animals and various debris, while weeds and reeds that had not been treated for several years had invaded the walls.
Finding the energy from our stubbornness and the desire to carry out this edition, despite the many difficulties, we began to meet on Saturdays and Sunday mornings in July to clean, with our hands, every corner of the parking lot under the burning sun of the Calabrian summer.
Some Amanteans saw us and helped us, bringing tools and expertise to prune the branches, build dry stone walls, clear the reeds and move the heaps of garbage we collected.
It was not enough for us to bring the car park back to its normal conditions. We wanted to go further and make it better: an immense open-air work of art, available to everyone, which can become an example for restoring beauty to abandoned spaces.
We invited two artists to create their works here in Amantea: Sara Fratini, co-founder of La Guarimba and internationally renowned illustrator and Cesáh, stage name of Paulo Albuquerque, a Brazilian muralist based in Portugal. Two very different styles, but which managed to revive the setting that hosted the festival.
We found ourselves forced to move an entire community to make up for the absence of the institutions, which had already ignored the problem by not carrying out routine maintenance and garbage collection for several years.
We paid a bulldozer out of our own pocket to finish the cleaning work, because the commission, that acts for the municipal administration that was dissolved because of the mafia, did not intervene as promised during the meetings we organized in the previous months.
We showed a model of a possible and alternative society, capable of taking back public spaces and joining forces to work and grow together.
THE POSITION IN FAVOR OF UKRAINE
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February 2022, we have taken a clear stance in support of the Ukrainian people, victims of Putinian imperialism and the mystification of the Russian (and part of the Italian) propaganda.
We did this through four actions:
- We have offered all Ukrainian filmmakers an exemption from paying festival registration, allowing them to participate for free. Three films by these directors were presented during La Guarimba 2022 as part of the special program SLÁVA UKRAYÍNI!.
- We have excluded from the festival all the producers, directors and distributors who have expressed clear positions in favor of Putin. Instead, we have selected Russian directors who have publicly taken sides against the invasion.
- On March 12, 2022, we organized the screening of the documentary The Earth is Blue as an Orange (2020), directed by Iryna Tsilyk, winner of the Director’s Award in the “World Cinema Documentary” category at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The event was organized in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Ukraine in Italy; The Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Italy; Lithuanian Cultural Institute; Milan Film Library; Z-Power-Young People Back to the Movies.
- For the sixth edition of Kino Guarimba, we offered a scolarship that covers the participation fee, travel expenses, food and accommodation of 10 Ukrainan participants, who will be able to enjoy an international training experience for free. The scholarships have been covered by the European Cultural Foundation, which supported the initiative.
We repeated the initiative for the eighth residency in September 2023, offering a scholarship to five Ukrainian participants thanks to the support of the European Commission.