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Fernanda Silva, Festroia’s Director marked OCIC and SIGNIS

Monday 8 August 2016, by SIGNIS

Brussels, August 8, 2016 (Guido Convents). Festival director of Festroia-Setubal Fernanda Silva passed away last week in Portugal. She was a 59 years old mother and grandmother, and although timid, she was a personality in the European film world. In 2014, at the 30th anniversary of the festival, the Bishop of Setubal Canavarro Don Gilberto dos Reis honoured her for the 25th year she had welcomed the OCIC/SIGNIS jury.

With this award, SIGNIS wished to acknowledge her work and efforts in organizing year after year an international programme of quality. Through her programming and activities she contributed to the creation of a local, national and international culture of hope in which human values were fundamental.

In 1988, at the European meeting of OCIC in Luxemburg, the Portuguese delegate Francisco Perestrello discovered that almost no one in the meeting had an idea of the work the Portuguese Catholics did in the world of cinema. They published the magazine Boletim Cinematográfico and their film critics were used by almost all the media, even the non-catholic ones. The Portuguese Catholic film critics were also active as jury members in international film festivals. At this board meeting, Perestrello invited OCIC to have a jury at the film festival in Troia, a holiday resort 65 km from Lisbon. He already worked with the festival, which was directed by Mario Ventura, assisted by Fernanda Silva. They were committed personalities and they invited the international Catholic jury although they were non-Catholics.

In 1989, the international Catholic jury was welcomed in an out most respected way. In a meeting with Mario and Fernanda, the five jury members asked why they wanted to have a Catholic jury. They answered that they had discovered that the awards the OCIC juries gave, were also their favourite films. The jury were astonished to hear that they saw their festival as a spiritual work to make society better, more social and more human. They were also fighting to give the image to those who were not seen on the screens. After the festival, Fernanda met with the bishop Martins of Setubal. She explained later that she was really impressed and moved by the social committed bishop and his work in the diocese.

Mgr Martins also suggested Mario and Fernanda to bring the festival to the socialist town of Setubal and he said that these people needed more than ever their festival with these excellent films. The town suffered at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s because of the economical crisis and he thought that the lack of cultural events made it even worse. Mario and Fernanda had already thought about it, but that convinced them to move to Setubal.

In 1991, Fernanda heard that OCIC wanted to organise an international forum of young film critics. She suggested it to Mario and the next year, twenty five participants were invited. Most of them were from catholic organisations from Eastern Europe. At the end of the Forum, Fernanda blushed when the president of OCIC, Fr Ambros Eichenberger, thanked her with a warm hug for all her commitment. When, Mario passed away fifteen years later, Fernanda became the director of the festival.

Fernanda didn’t change the politics towards the catholic jury and even made the ties stronger. In selecting films, she admitted that sometimes she was thinking “this would be a film for the OCIC Jury". Fernanda was a mother and a grandmother, and her attention for women who had it not easy in life was a recurrent theme in her selection. Her influence in the selection of the films became more and more tangible every year. The jury was amazed by films they couldn’t see elsewhere or stayed undiscovered in the large festivals because no-one had heard from the filmmaker. This meant that the discussions in the jury changed, when confronted with these films. Fernanda’s nose for fine films and her commitment to the European films had as a result that she became more and more respected in the European film world.

The festival staff members and a number of international guests almost became her family: she cared about them, and was always ready to help or to find solutions. Even when it was difficult to raise money, she asked the SIGNIS jury to stay, but to reduce its members from five to three. She was also happy that SIGNIS integrated a young local Portuguese priest – a film fan – in the jury, who became also a kind of liaison officer between the festival and SIGNIS in Brussels.

Fernanda was a well qualified professional in the film festival world. The Portuguese journalist Joao Antunes noted that she was the first person from the institutional world of Portuguese cinema to be invited to the European Film Academy (EFA), with voting rights. She was an active member of the Board of the European Coordination of Film Festivals and of the Board of the Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art-et-d’Essai (CICAE). International film festivals like San Sebastian, Venice, Karlovy Vary or Mumbai invited her in the official jury. In Portugal, she and her very motivated staff had it not easy. Due to a decision of the national institute of cinema, the financial support was drastically diminished, preferring more publicised events.

Although Fernanda struggled hard for her festival and her staff, she lost that battle and the one of her health. It is a loss for the world she created thanks to her generosity, kindness and expertise. In all these years she brought thousands of people together and gave them another perspective on the world and even their live: hope, joy and tolerance.

At the Chapel of St. Paul in Setubal her family and friends could say her a last farewell. Fernanda is burried at the Cemitério da Paz/ the Cemetery of Peace.

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