Well, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the neighboring West African country of Burkina Faso last week to see some of the film festival FESPACO in the capital city of Ouagadougou. This was the 21st offering of the festival as well as the 40th anniversary, so while I was hesitant to leave Mali, who could say no? I saw a whirlwind of 13 films in 4 days, some shorts and even one animated film. This year’s festival was dedicated to the multi-talented Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène, who unfortunately passed away in 2007 and was much missed at the festival. Africultures put out a truly beautiful biography booklet, which was available for purchase at the festival. If I got you thirsty for even more information, check this out.
I think if someone had told me at the start of my Fulbright that I was going to spend so much attention on festivals, I probably wouldn’t have believed such a thing. It’s been refreshing to realize during my time here how important I find big events, the mobilization thereof and the possibilities that arise out of them. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to catch both Mali’s Biennale, which you might remember from a couple posts ago, and now FESPACO, both of which are held roughly every 2 years.
Films screened at the festival were either made by Africans, about or featuring Africans, or from other parts of the diaspora. With such a broad representation, there was a real diversity to the kinds of films at the festival. And with films being shown constantly all day across Ouagadougou’s very numerous movie theaters, it was difficult to choose where to be at any given time! I made the most of it with my band of fellow researchers, and we had a great time. There was a lot of great night time entertainment, with a full stage and concerts at night. One concert of note featured 2 dancers on stilts, which my friend described as “clowns with ski masks on stilts”.
This year’s top prize, l’Etalon Yennega d’Or (the “Golden Yennega Stallion”) went to the film Teza from Ethiopian director Haïlé Gerima. Other big winners were Nothing But the Truth from South Africa, Mascarades from Algeria, and Le Fateuil from Morocco. More awards can be found here. Congratulations everyone!
My personal five favorites included:
– Cemetery Stories: A Rebel Missionary in South Africa by Malian-American Cherif Keita, professor at Carleton College. The Wilcox family, traveled with him all the way to Ouagadougou, including the 90-year-old star himself! I was quite taken by all of them.
– From Kenyan Judy Kibinge, Killer Necklace, which had me at the tagline, “Boy Love Girl, Girl Wants Necklace, How Far Will Boy Go To Prove His Love?”
– From Belgium, Une Girafe Sans La Pluie, an excellent, fun animated short about the horrors and possibilities of immigration. There’s more information as well as a short clip of the film near the bottom of this website.
– The Manuscripts of Timbuktu, made by South African Zola Maseko, which I got to discuss with fellow Malian Fulbrighter currently doing his research in Timbuktu.
– Triomf, a film about South Africa by Zimbabwean director Michael Raeburn
Since FESPACO was such a huge event, there are a lot of great stories scattered online. Of special note is the coverage by correspondents from the BBC: Audrey Brown put out a fun radio broadcast every day of the festival which can be found here, and James Copnall put his thoughts on the festival into an interesting story which can be found here.
Well, it was great to be there. My only disappointment was that Danny Glover, known to attend FESPACO festivals in the past, was nowhere to be found this year. Oh well!
I’ll leave you with another photo montage. More soon!