Brussels, 8 May 2018 (SIGNIS / GC). Ermanno Olmi was a director who always sought to surprise and who knew how to combine the depth of his faith with the questions raised by contemporary man, without ever being dogmatic. He died at the age of 86.

Throughout his career, he received several awards from OCIC / SIGNIS and the Ecumenical Jury:

  • 1961, Venice Film Festival: Il Posto 
  • 1963, Cannes Film Festival: I Fidanzati (The Fiances)
  • 1978, Cannes Film  Festival: L’Albero degli zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs )
  • 1988, Venice Film Festival: La Leggenda del Santo Bevitore (The Legend of the Holy Drinker)
  • 2017, Milan Film Festival: vedete sono uno di voi

In October 2017, the SIGNIS Jury awarded its prize to the documentary Vedete sono uno di voi, on the life of Cardinal Maria Martini (1927-2012) of Milan. It is a film about a Cardinal, but not a religious film; an honest film that explains the life of an Italian priest who lived during a good part of the twentieth century and who marked the culture in Italy. A portrait made by a sincere and authentic filmmaker of an honest man who becomes a Cardinal. In this bio-documentary, we discover aspects of the filmmaker's spiritual or religious life. It can be seen as Olmi's testament with a last look at the world he knew and worked in. The filmmaker also identifies with the modern religiosity expressed by the dying cardinal, who is given the opportunity to express himself for the last time. A religiosity that is human, giving voice to the voiceless, helping the weakest and most deprived, and who does not hesitate to criticize power.

In 1961 Ermanno Olmi, barely thirty years-old, received the OCIC prize at the Venice Film Festival for his film Il Posto. It was his second feature film, which accurately documented bureaucratic culture in a big Italian company. Thus, he was seen as a representative of the new neo-realistic wave. A social film that exposed aspects of inhumane work. The OCIC Jury explained that it was work that contrasted with a too often forced and pessimistic representation of life, and showed a keen sense of the human condition, a discreet sensitivity, freshness, humor and poetry. Two years later, in Cannes, the OCIC Jury awarded the film I Fidanzati. Again, a film on the world of employment, but this time telling the story of a factory worker who decides to leave for Sicily for a more rewarding job. He leaves his fiancée behind, as not knowing if he still loves her. Distance and loneliness change many things, and through letters, he finds love again. For Il Posto, the jury was touched by the way Olmi portrayed the difficult working conditions of modern life. He also brilliantly demonstrated how feelings can develop beyond distance and time that passes.

With The Albero degli Zoccoli - 1978, Olmi became a great filmmaker, remaining in the neo-realistic legacy. He tells the daily life and community rites of families living on a farm in Lombardy at the end of the 19th century. Once again, he portrays work, but this time the work of peasants employed by a rich owner. This film resembles the director’s life when he was young. The film shows social injustice and misery, but without being a call for revolution, as well as nostalgia, the importance of family values ​​and solidarity, which are glimmers of hope. Some may find this film to be more reminiscent of Christianized spiritualism. For the Ecumenical Jury in Cannes, the film was an authentic fresco of a rural community which, "struggling with the harsh economic and social realities of its era, keeps in daily life the sense of humane and spiritual values". The film also received the prestigious Golden Palm. In 1988, the OCIC Jury awarded its prize at the Venice Film Festival to La Leggenda del Santo Bevitore, a film completely different from the others, not located in Italy, but in Paris. The strange story of an unfortunate man who lives under the bridges of the Seine and who is lent a small amount of money provided he gives it back, on Sunday after Mass, in the church where Saint Thérèse of Lisieux can be found. The OCIC Jury explained that they witnessed the miraculous rebirth of a man believed to be lost; it is a compelling story that presents a "painful experience of life in which human frailty is rescued by the redemptive intervention of grace."