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“I went to Africa by myself and I am not crazy” reveals Vanessa Crocini, a Tuscany native writer, director, editor and producer of Get Together Girls: a six awards winning documentary, including Best Documentary, Best Directing, Best Story, and Audience Award at the Los Angeles Women’s Independent Film Festival and the Excellence and Special Jury Award at the International Film Festival for Environment, Health and Culture in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In 2009 Vanessa’s first ‘Africa call’ arrived. After assisting Italian filmmaker Alessandro Rocca with the direction of The Consul’s List in Rwanda, Vanessa knew she had to go back to Africa and she understood that social impact documentaries are what she really wants to do in her life. She wants to tell stories and portray characters and events to people who otherwise would not have a chance to know about those stories.
“Anyone watching these types of documentaries will have to think” says Vanessa, “When you watch a romantic comedy you’ll forget most of it in a week, while in a documentary there will be things you won’t be able to forget. A documentary will always teach you something, always” says Vanessa about what she considers to be the most interesting aspect of documentaries.
After coming back from Rwanda Vanessa contacted Amani for Africa and a board member told her about Grazia ‘Grace’—the biggest inspiration for Vanessa’s multiple award winning documentary Get Together Girls. “My jaw dropped” says Vanessa about the moment she first heard about Grace Orsolato, a successful woman who left her whole comfortable Italian life behind, including a stable and well paid job at Pirelli in Milan to move to Africa with a couple of sewing machines and start a tailoring project in Kenya. “This was my movie” Vanessa recalls, “my instinct told me that.”
She then started a fundraising on Indiegogo, an International crowdfunding platform, but “Vasco Rossi jumped in”. The iconic face and voice of Italian rock, Vasco Rossi. Vanessa worked with Vasco before and one day, “while chit chatting about literature, philosophy, about everything” Vasco asked her what she was working on at the moment, and as soon as Vanessa told him about the documentary, she remembers Vasco speaking in third person to her, telling her “Vasco can produce it.” Vanessa was in shock as she was not expecting it. She never doubted that Vasco was a wonderful human being but she just wasn’t expecting that she could count on the help of a star of that level. Vasco Rossi “is very proud” says Vanessa “he got to know a women world he wasn’t familiar with.”
Vanessa left for Kenya completely alone, without any crew “it was just me, my camera and a microphone.” In March 2011 Vanessa arrived in Nairobi and lived with Grace for five weeks while also spending the work day with all the other girls, the main characters of the documentary, the “street girls” “who are not prostitutes as people may think” but simply homeless girls who now have the opportunity of a brighter future thanks to Grace and Anita’s home, the youth rehabilitation center a few miles south of Nairobi.
The Tuscan female director didn’t know exactly what she was going to film, as she had no clue about what the girls would have shared with her and most of all, if they were all willing to share their lives and stories. She remembers her first day in Nairobi telling the girls that her documentary would have given them “a third chance” as the second chance was already given to them by the tailoring project—a wonderful opportunity that inspired Vanessa’s documentary that was screened in 14 different film festival around the world.
This young Italian director thinks that this is just the beginning for her and that she has a very long road ahead of her, but now she feels it’s her mission, her responsibility to “open eyes” and show people that there isn’t just negativity about Africa, that there are beautiful and positive stories to be told, stories of strong and beautiful women.
On this year’s International Women’s Day, March 8th 2014, Vanessa was invited as a special guest to the traditional gathering organized by the non-profit association D.I.V.E. (Donne Italiane che Vivono all’Estero, Italian Women Who Live Abroad). Founded in Washington DC in 2001 with the aim of promoting the association and integration of Italian women within the American society, the Los Angeles chapter of the D.I.V.E. is chaired by Lucia Peretti and counts over 95 members, who meet every month in a friendly atmosphere to share information and experiences, while preserving the Italian language and culture.
Vanessa Crocini believes that on La Festa della Donna - Women’s Day - women are given the opportunity to speak, expose, and start a dialogue, even though women are celebrated every day, in every moment, as she reminds that Get Together Girls starts with an African proverb that says “When you educate a girl, you educate a community.”
However, to educate isn’t enough for Vanessa: what’s also important is to be respectful and to tell a story in a very dignified way, without any pietism.
Get Together Girls’s trailer and some of its clips have been watched on Vimeo in 116 different countries worldwide. “That’s real empowerment” says Vanessa, “because maybe someone, somewhere, watched the video and wants to start a similar project.”
Vanessa has an adopted niece from Ethiopia who has changed her life. Her ties to Africa go far beyond any storytelling and volunteering activities. “Africa is in my blood” says Vanessa, and it’s inked on her skin too, it’s in her clothes, in her jewelry, in the music she listens to. Vanessa would love to continue telling African stories, redemption stories, and positive stories.
To support, learn more about the project and watch the documentary visit http://gettogethergirls.com and www.gtogcollection.org to take a look or shop the Get Together Girls clothing and accessories collection.