Eritrea. Cinema Impero
Eritrea has been the most important Italian colony.
The first official act of our presence in the African country in 1869, the colonization itsellf began in 1885 in Massawa. The maximum development occurred during the Fascist period. In the late ’30s, the capital Asmara was inhabited by 53 thousand Italians in a total population of 98 thousand. The end of the colony, coincided with the British occupation in 1941. The British protectorate lasted eleven years, then Eritrea became a region of Ethiopia. In 1993, after thirty years of war, Eritrea achieved liberation that will be celebrated the next may 24th.
My great grandfather was one of the Italians who went there in the 20’s, to be a doctor. Is when i found old pictures my grandma kept for decades, that my curiosity about a country that in Italy has almost been forgotten, has grown.
The project Cinema Impero intends to show, seventy years after the end of the colony, the situation of a country, barely known because of the millions of political refugees arrived in Europe, that still keeps not only the architectures, that represent the greatest expression of the rationalist and futurist movement, but also all the old traditions of Italian culture alive.
Italians are not proud of that part of our history, we don’t study it at school, our generation almost doesn’t know anything about it. To me, history doesn’t have to be forgotten, and when you go there, you realize that it hasn’t. Just consider that in Asmara there is the biggest Italian school outside of Italy with around 1.200 students. Thats why most of the old people and of the few young people who hasn’t left the country, still speak Italian.There are around a hundred buildings which recall that historical period. Most of them still have the same use and the decor of eighty years ago, amongst which the Italian Hotel, the railroad, many Cinemas, which still project Italian films from the 50’s.These places make the architectural landscape of the capital, a unique place in the world. The architects had to create a city from almost nothing, without the logistical constraints of our country and succeeded in creating a city which is in part, utopian. Precisely in this moment Asmara has put itself forward as a candidate to be put on the World Heritage List.
Convinced that the capital of Eritrea is a World Heritage site, and considering the period of crisis that the country is going through, I hope is that this work, if only in a small way, can help Asmara’s candidature.