The African Film Festival, Burkina Faso

In late February, a month before violent protests by the military in Burkina Faso prompted President Blaise Compaore to dissolve his government, an enthusiastic crowd swarmed Place des Cinéastes in the capital city, Ouagadougou, as well as a dozen other sites, as part of Fespaco 2011, the Pan-African Film and Television Festival that honors contributions to African cinema. The biannual “African Cannes” attracted nearly 8,000 attendees, according to Michel Ouedraogo, the festival’s organizer. Many packed the city’s soccer stadium, but others, in small villages like Pitmoaga, 30 miles west of the capital, were able to watch movies on temporary screens. And for a few hours on each of the festival’s eight days, it provided a welcome respite from reality.

 

Fespaco is the Panafrican festival of cinema, the most important in the continent. Every two years it takes place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A great achievement if we consider that African cinema has the fewest economic and financial means of sustenance and that its distributive market is down to the bone.

The Festival, which is entirely “handcrafted”, begins in a 35.000 seat stadium filled to the rim, in an extremely colorful African context, intertwined by very kitschy ballets and shows. All within a city that is litterally taken over by dealers and traders coming from all Burkina Faso and bordering territories. During the course of the event, tens of films coming from all of Africa are shown through lengthy delays in halls assaulted by crowds hungry for entertainment. Spectators can view video-documentaries through the city streets in open air theaters, while pennyless associations organize “travelling” projections, between block parties and swarms of children shouting.

 

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