FESPACO 2019: 50-year Anniversary of the African Film Festival

FESPACO 2019_1
FESPACO 2019 (featuring Maimouna N’Diaye – 2015 winner of Best Actress in a leading role)

2019 marks the 50th year anniversary of the FESPACO.  As a reminder, the FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du cinema et de la television de Ouagadougou) is the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, and is the largest African film festival, held biennally in Ouagadougou, the capital of  Burkina Faso. First established in 1969, and boasting some of Africa’s greatest writers and filmmakers (like Ousmane Sembene), the FESPACO offers a chance for African filmmakers and professionals to showcase their work, exchange ideas, and meet other filmmakers, and sponsors. Filmmakers from around the continent come together in Ouagadougou which is transformed into the Hollywood or the Cannes of the continent for this 8-day celebration. This year’s FESPACO ran from February 23 to March 2nd.

Golden Stallion of Yennenga
The Golden Stallion of Yennenga

To mark the 50th-year edition, a particular focus was set on reflecting on the collective memory and future of the pan-African cinema. Films from 16 African countries were vying for the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, a prize named after the story of a 12th century beautiful princess who is considered the mother of the Mossi people, Princess Yennenga.

The Golden Stallion of Yennenga 2019 was awarded to the movie “The Mercy of the Jungle” directed by Joel Karekezi of Rwanda. “The Mercy of the Jungle” shows the arduous road trip taken by foot of two soldiers lost in the jungle during the time of the Democratic Republic of Congo wars. It beat out 19 other candidates to get the Golden Stallion of Yennenga.  Marc Zinga, a Belgian, also took best actor for his role in “The Mercy of the Jungle.”

Rwanda_Joel Karekezi FESPACO 2019
Joel Karekezi, winner of the 2019 Golden Stallion of Yennenga (Fraternite Matin)

Second prize went to “Karma”, a drama by Egyptian director Khaled Youssef, while third place was awarded to Tunisian Ben Hohmound, who directed “Fatwa”, another drama.

This year also, women have complained about the fact that in 50 years, not a single woman has won the top prize at FESPACO. This highlights a problem of gender equality for film directors. South African actress Xolile Tshabalala, who featured in “Miraculous Weapons”, directed by Jean-Pierre Bekolo, a Cameroonian asked, “can it be that in 50 years, there hasn’t been a single woman capable of telling a great story to win the Fespaco?” Burkinabe director Apolline Traore said that any award had to be earned, not considered a token gesture, but admitted that there is a problem in gender equality for directors. “There’s no equality for the craft of a woman director, not just in Africa, but in the world,” she said.  Traore won a special prize on Friday for her film, “Desrances”.

9 thoughts on “FESPACO 2019: 50-year Anniversary of the African Film Festival

  1. It’s cool how there’s a big film festival in Africa. I’ve been getting into cinema from the continent. However, it’s a shame that there’s a lack of female directors in that cinema scene.


    1. I think the lack of female directors is common around the globe. It is a fight for all women anywhere. In the US, it has been less than 10 years when the first woman won the best director award… so it is still a battle, even in the US.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. Sorry if I implied that it was just in Africa. I remember when that last movie won an award. It was The Hurt Locker if memory serves me correctly. I’d like to see more female directors to get some representation.


      2. That’s true. You’re right about not enough female director representation going on worldwide. One documentary that I really enjoyed from a female director was Hate Crimes in the Heartland. It was such an eye-opening look at what happened in Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


      3. Thanks for sharing. I will make sure to check out ‘Hate Crimes in the Heartland’, especially since it talks about the Tulsa race Riots of 1921 where Black businesses were burnt to the ground. I had learnt about this in recent years.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. No problem, Dr. Y. That documentary was certainly eye-opening. They even got the last survivors of that atrocity to tell their stories which were so visceral and heartbreaking. It’s awesome that you’ve heard about the Tulsa Race Riots. There are several Americans here that still don’t know about Black Wall Street. It was something I didn’t learn until I was long done with school.


      5. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s an important event everyone should know. The Tulsa Race Riots were also the first real airstrike on US soil that predates Pearl Harbor. The only difference was it involved Americans attacking other Americans in this case.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s