Pomp and colour as Africa’s biggest film festival starts

The theme for this year is – Cinemas of Africa and the Diaspora: New perspectives, new challenges

The 27th edition of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco) is under way in Burkina Faso’s capital.

Thousands thronged the Palais des Sports complex in the Ouaga 2000 district to witness the start of Africa’s largest film festival, which runs from 16 to 23 October.

Man with white paint on his chest which reads: FESPACO

Man with white paint on his chest which reads: FESPACO

The event was initially slated for February this year, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fespaco, which started in 1969, is an internationally recognised festival that attracts enthusiasts from across the world to celebrate films largely produced in Africa by Africans.

A woman smiling with a head dress of fake oranges

The festival is the central cultural event on Ouagadougou’s calendar

Security was tight in and around the venue, with the army positioned strategically across Ouagadougou.

The Sahelian nation has been battling an insurgency by jihadist groups in the north and eastern regions since 2015.

“It’s not the first time that the Fespaco is facing [security] difficulties… So we will implement the same strategy but this time we are also taking into account the sanitary situation,” Alex Moussa Sawadogo, the new Fespaco delegate-general, told the BBC.

“In the face of the unprecedented security crisis, we remain standing,” said the Burkinabé Culture Minister Elise Foniyama Ilboudo Thiombiano.

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was also present, as was the country’s foreign minister and international ambassadors.

Which films are competing this year?

Out of the 1,132 entries submitted across six categories, 239 films from 50 countries have been shortlisted.

Some 17 feature-length films will battle it out for the grand prize, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, named after a beast in Burkinabé mythology.

Their directors come from Egypt, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Tunisia and Haiti.

The grand prize winner will be selected by an international jury headed by Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, who won France’s coveted César for best film in 2015 – Timbuktu.

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