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Hugo in Africa

Hugo Pratt was one of Europe's most popular illustrators.

With: Kess Wodaje Assefa, Achenef Engdaw, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Matteo Casali, Jean Claude Guilbert, Pietro Gerosa, Patrizia Zanotti, Marco D'Anna, Sultan Abdo Houmed, Ismael Omar Guelleh. Narrator: Jean Luc Bideau.

Hugo Pratt was one of Europe’s most popular illustrators, best known for his adult comicstrip hero Corto Maltese. “Hugo in Africa,” made with the blessing of Pratt’s executors, Cong, is helmer Stefano Knuchel’s hagiographic exploration of Pratt’s seminal African escapades. Knuchel is too caught up in a kind of boys’ adventure story to properly analyze his subject, and Jean Luc Bideau’s theatrical narration tries too hard to be the audience’s friend. A reasonable familiarity with Pratt’s work is almost essential, limiting exposure primarily to Euro cable.

Venice-born Pratt moved with his family to Djibouti during Mussolini’s fiasco in the Horn of Africa. At 13, he was signed up for the army, and the experience sparked a fascination with the military and also cemented an almost spiritual bond with the land and people. His series “The Desert Scorpions” was a direct result, but Pratt’s time in Africa formed his personality as well as his art. How much this white Italian was really able to become one with the Ethiopians is questionable, but Knuchel has a fine eye, and unreleased footage of Pratt is nicely incorporated; intertitles, however, are unnecessary.

Hugo in Africa


Production: A Venus and Beyond presentation of a Venus and Beyond, Cong, Alfredo Knuchel Filmproduktion, RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera production. Produced by Stefano Knuchel. Executive producers, Stefano Knuchel, Pietro Gerosa. Directed, written by Stefano Knuchel.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Ariel Salati; editor, Emanuela Andreoli; music, Zeno Gabaglio; sound, Riccardo Studer. Reviewed on DVD in Rome, Italy, Sept. 17, 2009. (In Venice Film Festival -- Horizons.) Original title: Hugo en Afrique. French, Italian, Amharic dialogue. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Kess Wodaje Assefa, Achenef Engdaw, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Matteo Casali, Jean Claude Guilbert, Pietro Gerosa, Patrizia Zanotti, Marco D'Anna, Sultan Abdo Houmed, Ismael Omar Guelleh. Narrator: Jean Luc Bideau.

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