In Memoriam Fernanda Silva

We lost a friend:
Fernanda Silva, Festroia’s Director
By João Antunes
Cinema is poor. Fernanda Silva, the director of former Festroia – International Film Festival of Setúbal, Portugal, who hosted our jury for so many years, passed away. She was 59 and did not resist the disease and the closing of Festroia, abandoned by public and private entities, having it’s last edition in 2014, after a history of exactly 30 editions.

There are now lots of newspapers making an obituary article and louding her character and influence, but they never came when it was time to promote this unique festival in the world : opening competition just to cinematographies producing less than 30 features per year, Festroia allowed viewers to see films they could not see elsewhere. A concept so many friends and colleagues, like our jury members, never stoped to praise, in so many conversation I had there.

During it’s long history, besides thousands of features, short films and documentaries coming from all over the world, Festroia hosted people like Dennis Hopper, Michael York, Francesco Rosi, Ettore Scola, Alberto Sordi, Michael Madsen, Agnieszka Holland, Jiri Menzel, Franco Nero, Florinda Bolkan, Pedro Almodóvar, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rooney, Ben Gazzara, Jane Russell, Jose Antonio Bardem, Lauren Bacall, Christopher Lee.

All that seemed not at all important when a jury of five members, formed by the ICA, the national institute of cinema, decided in 2014 to diminish dramatically the amount of money given to the festival, prefering other more mediatic events. Even worst, the decision was given for a period of three years. That meant the end of Festroia.

Fernanda Silva was already the festival’s director and soul. Born in 1957, she graduated in Public Relations and Administration, beginning her professional activity as board assistant at the Tróia Tourist Complex. In 1988, she joined the crew of the Tróia International Film Festival, created three years earlier by the writer and journalist Mário Ventura Henriques. She worked as secretary and PR for the event before becoming general coordinator, and festival director, a position that she held for two decades.

Less known, or deliberately forgotten by some in her own country, Fernanda Silva 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 also member of international juries in several film festivals, like San Sebastián, Venice, Karlovy Vary or Mumbai, 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).

Nothing matters now. She’s not with us anymore. Fernanda was a woman of character, but extremely simple and humble, kind and generous. She was happy to have us all around her, those memorable first 10 days of June, year after year. Fernanda, please, get the theater ready. We will all join you one of these days.

Joao Antunes