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”.

Why the Name: Ouagadougou?

Ouagadougou in 1930_Mittelholzer
Ouagadougou in 1930

I always loved the sound of the name Ouagadougou as it rolled off my tongue: it felt like a mouthful, but like a happy mouthful, the one you say with love: OUA-GA-DOU-GOU (WA-GA-DU-GU). Remember this is the capital of the land of upright people, the land of this proud son of Africa, Thomas Sankara. Yes, you know, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Originally, the city was called Kombemtinga, or the “land of princes.” It was founded on the 11th century by the Nyonyonse people.

WestAfrica1530
West Africa in 1530, with Mossi kingdom on the bottom right (Wikipedia)

The name Ouagadougou dates back to the 15th century when the Ninsi tribes inhabited the area. According to the Larlé Naba, the holder of the Mossi Empire‘s secrets, the city founders were in constant conflict with neighboring people until 1441, when they were forced to seek the protection of the Mossi Emperor Zoungrana, who was then living in Tenkodogo. In 1441Wubri, Zoungrana‘s son, and an important figure in Burkina Faso‘s history, led his tribe to victory. He then renamed the area from “KombemtingaorKumbee-Tenga“, as the Ninsi had called it, to “Wogdgo” which meant “Come honor me“.

Mossi Cavalry
Mossi cavalry, ca 1800s

It is this appellation which has evolved to “Woghodogo,” then Ouagadougou from the French. Others say that the name was changed by Wubri from “Kombemtinga” to “Wage sabre soba koumbem tenga“, meaning “head war chief’s village“.  The city then became the capital of the Mossi Empire in 1441 and the permanent residence of the Mossi emperors (Moro-Naba, Mogho Naaba) starting in 1681 with Naba Sanem. The Moro-Naba Ceremony is still performed every Friday by the Moro-Naba and his court to this day. The French made Ouagadougou the capital of the Upper Volta territory (basically the same area as contemporary independent Burkina Faso) in 1919.

Burkina Faso_Moro Naba
The Mogho Naba, king of the Mossi people at court in Ouagadougou, ca 1910 (Source: AdireAfricanTextiles.blogspot.com)

The name was originally « Woogrtenga » and « Wogodogo » to mean « where we receive honors, respect».  Ouagadougou grew around the imperial palace of the Mogho Naaba. Being an administrative center of colonial rule, it became an important urban center in the post-colonial era. First the capital of the Mossi Kingdoms and later of Upper Volta and then Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou became a veritable communal center in 1995. Affectionately called Ouaga by most, it is the center of the African film festival, FESPACO.

Ouaga2000 Memorial
Ouaga2000 Memorial – Ouagadougou today

So if you visit Ouagadougou, remember that you are visiting the original land of the princes, and the place where we receive honors and respect. Isn’t it a name worthy of the capital of the land of the upright people (Burkina Faso)? Enjoy the video below about Ouagadougou.

 

“Capitaine Thomas Sankara” by Christophe Cupelin

"Capitaine Thomas Sankara" by Christophe Cupelin
“Capitaine Thomas Sankara” by Christophe Cupelin

I had to share the trailer of the documentary “Capitaine Thomas Sankara” by Christophe Cupelin, which was shown this year at the FESPACO 2015 in OuagadougouBurkina Faso. This is the first time a movie about Thomas Sankara, the African Che, could be shown at the FESPACO in 27 years since Compaore‘s coup. Enjoy!

FESPACO 2015: Celebrating African Films

FESPACO 2015
FESPACO 2015

FESPACO 2015 ended last week, and ran from February 28th until March 7th. The festival’s glamour was not at its usual, since the overthrowing of Blaise Compaoré, but it still took place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and brought in some great African films and documentaries.

"FIEVRES" by Hicham Ayouch
“FIEVRES” by Hicham Ayouch

This year’s festival featured, for the first time, films from the African diaspora. 720 films competed, and 134 were selected in the 5 categories. The winner of this year’s Golden Stallion of Yennenga was “Fievres” by the French-Moroccan filmmaker, Hicham Ayouch.  The film tells the story of a 13 year old boy, displaced and prone to violence who learns that he has a father after his mother is sent to jail, and is sent to live with his father in a Parisian suburb. The beauty of “Fievres” is its focus on telling the tale between a father and son who have to learn to be father-son, and also the cultural identity among immigrants, and practicing Muslims in France.

"Fadhma N'Soumer" by Belkacem Hadjadj
“Fadhma N’Soumer” by Belkacem Hadjadj

The Silver Stallion was awarded to Algerian director Belkacem Hadjadj for his film on “Fadhma N’Soumer“, a stunning biopic on the life of the Algerian resistance leader who fought against the French colonial forces in Kabyle. I was so happy to see this movie made, and winning the second prize, as I had written about Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer a while ago, and wanted her praises to be sung. This is truly Africans telling their own stories, and honoring their greatest heroes and heroines. Applauses to director Belkacem Hadjadj for telling our history.

"L'Oeil du Cyclone" (The Eye of the Cyclone) by Sekou Traore
“L’Oeil du Cyclone” (The Eye of the Cyclone) by Sekou Traore

The Bronze Stallion was awarded to Burkinabé director Sekou TraoréL’Oeil du Cyclone” (The Eye of the Cyclone), which is a political drama set in an unnamed African country plagued by civil war. The film follows an idealistic young lawyer committed to defending a former child soldier charged with war crimes. The movie shows two faces of Africa: the young, idealistic and futuristic, vs. the broken and consumed with the past. The movie also won the festival awards for Best Actress (Maimouna N’Diaye – who is clearly a rising star of African cinema), and Best Actor (Fargass Assandé).

"Capitaine Thomas Sankara" by Christophe Cupelin
“Capitaine Thomas Sankara” by Christophe Cupelin

The Burkinabé public finally had the chance to see the documentary “Capitaine Thomas Sankara” by Christophe Cupelin, which would have never been allowed at FESPACO under Blaise Compaore’s tenure (Thomas Sankara‘s murderer, best friend, and coup-formenter). It was a time to celebrate the life of Burkina Faso’s greatest hero. To read more about this year’s FESPACO, check out The Guardian, and the FESPACO homepage.

 

FESPACO: An African Film Tradition

FESPACO 2013
FESPACO 2013

With the upcoming closing ceremony of the FESPACO this Saturday, I thought it important to talk about Africa’s film tradition. For starters, the FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du cinema et de la television de Ouagadougou) is the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, the largest African film festival, held biennally in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. First established in 1969, and boasting some of the Africa’s greatest writers and filmmakers (like Ousmane Sembene), the FESPACO offers a chance to African filmmakers and professional to showcase their work, exchange ideas, and meet other filmmakers, and sponsors. Filmmakers from around the continent all come together in Ouagadougou which is transformed into the Hollywood or the Cannes of the continent for this special occasion. This year’s FESPACO is presided by legendary director Euzhan Palcy (who made: Rue Cases Negres, A Dry White Season, Ruby Bridges).

Golden Stallion of Yennenga
The Golden Stallion of Yennenga

This year, 755 movies are competing in different categories. 20 feature films will be competing for the Golden Stallion of Yennenga (Etalon d’Or de Yennenga) which will be awarded Saturday March 2nd. The select 20 features in the ‘long metrage’ section address various subjects such as clandestine immigration (‘La Pirogue’ from Senegalese Moussa Traore, which was a big hit at last year’s Cannes festival), journalism and censorship (‘Les Chevaux de Dieu’ by Moroccan Nabil Ayouch, also featured at Cannes 2012), love (‘Love in the Medina’, by Moroccan filmmaker Abdelhai Laraki), war (‘La genese de la bataille d’Alger’, by Algerian filmmaker Said Ould Khelifa), theft in society (How to steal 2 million, from South African Charlie Vundla), ‘La republique des Enfants’ (Children’s republic) by Bissau-Guinean filmmaker Flora Gomes– a country abandoned by adults where children organize themselves into a prosperous country, or revolution and prostitutes in a war camp (‘Virgem Margarida’ directed by Mozambican Licinio Azevedo – which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year).

Enjoy this photojournal by Nic Bothma on the the Guardian’s website. You can read some movies’ sypnosis on Gabonews. Enjoy the generic of this year’s festival, which tells the story of the famous princess Yennenga, and the festival.