At the Sacrae Scenae film festival in cosy Ardesio, we arrived full of enthusiasm: a festival in presence from 27 to 29 August 2021, a real cinema, the audience and… Two awards for Wells of Hope. And even a crocodile in a church, curious, isn’t it? That’s no small thing in these strange times. Festivals are now mostly online, nothing to say about that, but being there changes everything. Meeting people, looking them in the eye, networking, these are the main values of attending a festival, and here we enjoyed them all.
Sacrae Scenae film festival
I like thematic festivals, because they always give a lot of space to documentaries and because you can see works on similar themes, interpreted in different ways. The Sacrae Scenae festival deals with popular devotion, with an open eye to the world. The president is Fabrizio Zucchelli; he is also a great expert of the precious Sanctuary Madonna delle Grazie. The artistic director is Roberto Gualdi, president of the Cinema e Arte association, which organises very interesting festivals in various parts of Italy. There are many active volunteers, from the pro loco and Vivi Ardesio, who are very knowledgeable and helpful.
Entering the large cinema, with its huge screen and comfortable seats, was a real post-lockdown experience, a sign of hope. Among the 22 films in competition, we found Our Lady’s Peace by Montenegrin director Vladimir Perović, an old friend of ours from the early years of the Religion Today Film Festival, and other fine titles.
Awards at Wells of Hope
There were two Aurora Vision documentaries in competition: Amazonia, the Loma Santa and Wells of Hope, about trafficking in the Arab world and women of different religions tackling it with the Talitha Kum network. And it was Wells of Hope that received two important awards.
The first, awarded by the jury represented by Pietro Carlesi, is the Silver Bell: “Mention to the film Wells of Hope for having succeeded in bearing strong witness to the exploitation of women and the trafficking of organs with testimonies of vibrant emotional force in a region tormented by abuse and war”. I walk on stage full of emotion, remembering the drama experienced by the Seriana Valley and the whole world, and thinking of the strength of Ardesio’s welcome.
With great surprise, and a touch of emotion, this is not the only award, as the Popular Jury Award was announced for Wells of Hope: “The film wins the Popular Jury Award for having made us aware of the dramatic condition of many Syrian refugees, especially women and children, through a vivid, intense, strong yet delicate narrative, capable of reaching everyone’s heart and stimulating new reflections. The inter-religious project, which involves numerous women supporting the various fragilities in the refugee camps, becomes an example of concrete daily faith and above all a strong and indispensable act of hope, always and in every case”.
On stage, I make a commitment to bring one of the awards to Arab women in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as soon as possible. If you would like to watch the film and support the project, you can do so on Talitha Kum’s website, here.
Upper Seriana Valley: Sacrae Scenae film festival in welcoming Ardesio and the crocodile in the church.
Taking part in film festivals is always enriching in many ways. So it might be for the content, the meeting with new people, the exchange of views. Also the excitement of the cinema, and not least the knowledge of the area. Diffuse tourism goes perfectly with festivals. And so we discover the dreamlike profile of the Orobian Alps, the high bell tower of Ardesio and its sanctuary linked to an apparition during a storm, the neighbouring villages.
These include the curious Sanctuary Madonna delle Lacrime in Ponte Nossa. In a Romanesque church with important frescoes, a sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna, there is a crocodile hanging from the ceiling. Apparently it has been there since the 16th century. Where does it come from? There are several versions, but tradition links it to a cloth merchant who 500 years ago came across the crocodile in the marshes near Rimini. He put his trust in Our Lady of Tears and managed to hit it with his arquebus and save himself. Apparently, he wanted to bring the crocodile into the church as a vow of thanks.