The 19th FESPACO (Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou) opened this week in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa. The festival which includes seminars, workshops, music shows and of course all Africa’s films. FESPACO started in 1969 runs every two years with the aim of "contributing to the expansion and development of African cinema as a means of expression, education and awareness-raising."
"Colonialism was brutal and savage. Now we need our own films. We have
stories to tell" Idrissa Ouedraogo, award winning director from Burkina
Whilst Hollywood celebrates it’s billion dollar industry and stars
parade themselves in million dollars worth of finery to award
themselves, for a lets face it, a mediocre to crass bunch of films
with a couple of exceptions in the foreign film category and RAY,
Africa’s filmmakers produce exceptional films on a budget of Cate
Blanchett’s outfit. As far as I know the only "Hollywood"
actor at the film festival is Danny Glover and yes Danny would be there
as he is a well known activist and supporter of African film .
The unfortunate thing is that very few of these films will be available to a wider audience outside of the film festival circuit. African films to do not bring in millions of dollars to cinema houses around the world and Africa itself has very few cinemas where films can be viewed by a large number of people. Some of the films may be transferred into video or DVD format but even these are so expensive that only organisations could afford to buy them.
The film festival is attended by thousands of Burkina Faso film fans
who pack the cinema showings. This year’s opening ceremony was
tragically marred as two people died and 10 were injured in the crush
Present at this years festival are some of Africa’s best known- directors – Ramadan Suleman from South Africa, Dani Kouyate from Burkina Faso and Ben Diogaye Beye of Senegal . This year there are 3 women directors competing for the top prize "Etalon d’Or de Yennenga" (Golden Stallion of Yennenga), Branwen Okpako "Valley of the Innoncent", Regina Nacro, "La Nuit de la Verite" and "Sous la Clarte de la Lune" by Appoline Traore.
The films are dominated by social and political commentary ranging from stories of war, injustice and conflict to life in the urban jungle but there are also stories of life, love and personal discovery. Films are from North Africa, East and Central Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa and altogether there are over 90 films being shown. The complete list of films can be viewed here and the competition contenders here.
Africa in Hollywood – there are two films from Rwanda, although not part of the film festival they should be mentioned.
Hotel Rwanda – Hotel Rwanda is the moving true story of one man’s heroic efforts to
save his family during the 1994 civil conflict that saw Hutu extremists
systematically try and wipe out their Tutsi neighbours. Paul
Rusesabagina – portrayed in a career defining performance by Don
Cheadle – worked at the four star Hotel Des Mille Collines in the
Rwandan capital of Kigali. The hotel was an oasis of luxury amidst a
city of poverty. A Hutu, Rusesabagina’s prominent position enabled him
to befriend the wealthy and influential hotel guests. When Tutsi
President Habyarimana is killed by Hutu rebels in April 1994, it
prompts the wholesale slaughter of Tutsis. With the country in turmoil,
Paul, his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), their children and everyone
else he is able to bribe the army to save, including some Tutsi
"cockroaches", seek refuge in the hotel. Their only protection is the
nominal presence of UN forces, but when the word comes down that the
West are effectively pulling out, it is left to Rusesabagina to protect
the hundreds of people his de facto position of manager has left him in
Sometimes in April – This harrowing drama focuses on the indescribable human atrocities that
took place in Rwanda a decade ago, through the story of two Hutu
brothers whose relationship and private lives were forever changed in
the midst of the genocide. Sometimes in April tells the story of a Hutu
soldier who gets separated from his family – including his Tutsi wife –
as he tries to take them to safety with the help of a fellow Hutu
Ten years later he is still trying to find out what happened to her and
their two children. The film explores the failure of the world to
intervene as Rwanda descended into chaos. The story is told in
flashbacks with the action moving between Rwanda, New York and the
International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania.