Africa’s biggest film festival kicks off on Saturday in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou after an eight-month delay by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent time, the festival has also been overshadowed by a six-year-old jihadist insurgency.
Held every two years, the popular festival which was initially set for February 27-March will be hosting seventeen feature-length works in the main competition.
According to the festival’s director, Alex Moussa Sawadogo, staging the event demonstrates that Africa has continued to create and to dream so as to be able to confront the ills that sap our societies.
Launched in 1969, Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is closely monitored by the US and European movie industries, which scout the event for new films, talent and ideas.
Under its rules, films chosen for competition have to be made by Africans and predominantly produced in Africa.
The 17 full-length films, selected from among 1,132 entries, are vying for the coveted Golden Stallion of Yennenga, a trophy named after a mythical beast in Burkinabe mythology.
Their directors hail from 15 countries across Africa, although there is just one from the host nation.
Egypt has two contenders, and there is one each from Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania and Tunisia.
A 17th is from Haiti — reflecting this year’s theme “Cinemas of Africa and the Diaspora.”
The short film category includes 29 entries, both fiction and documentaries, with five from Burkina Faso and four from Senegal.
The festival kicks on Saturday evening at the Palais des Sports complex, in a ceremony that will be attended by Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, with Senegalese music stars Baaba Maal and Didier Awadi topping the bill.
Films will be screened in cinemas around Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso including an open-air venue in the Square of the Nation in the heart of the city, Sadowogo said.
An international jury headed by Mauritanian producer Abderrahmane Sissako, who won France’s coveted Cesar in 2015 for “Timbuktu,” will select the prizewinner on October 23.
After the festival winds up, a “mini FESPACO” will tour the jihadist-hit north of the country to screen films for local people.
The impoverished landlocked country is battling jihadist gunmen who have killed around 2,000 people since 2015 and forced 1.4 million to flee their homes.