By Mokun Njouny Nelson
The 43rd edition of the biennially Pan African Film and Television festival (FESPACO) has just ended in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou. Senegelse film “Tey Aujourd’hui (Today) by Alain Gomis won The Golden Stallion, equivalent of the Best Oscar. The festival brings together the best in African films, (shorts, features, documentaries, TV serials etc) and is the biggest festival of filmmakers from Africa and abroad. For two weeks, film stakeholders, fans and a lot of visitors from abroad watched a wide variety of films about Africa from Algeria’s Djamila Sahraoul portrayal of his countrys’ post civil war era in YEMA, through Moussa Toure’s La Pirogue which traces the dangerous sea journey of some senegales migrants travelling to europe in a boat, to Mariette Monpierres’ diaporan feature film “Le bonheur d’Elza” in which a Caribean student in Paris goes back home to trace the father she never met.
However, like most things from Africa, officials in Burkina Faso has somehow managed to make this international festival irrelevant by not promoting it. In this day of social media, the Burkinabe government has not created any facebook page for the festival. There is however one facebook accounts for FESPACO but this does not appear to be an official account because it gaves very limited information about the festival which is unprofessional, to say the least . The festival has no twitter account while its website is only updated periodically. As expected, it gets most of its traffic only during the two weeks in February that the festival takes place.
A lot of critics will argue that by excluding the booming Nigerian film industry through its rule that only films that can be screened in 35MM can be entered for the best film, organizers shot themselves in the foot. Most Nigerian films are digital. Nigeria or nollywood is Africa’s single biggest film industry producing some 3000 films annually. Nollywood has the world ‘s second largest film industry producing more films than Hollywood and only beaten to second place by Bollywood(India). Their home videos with drama’s that centre mostly around love, black magic and crime might be rudimentary in it’s scripting and story telling but it is still one industry nobody can ignore.
Alain Gomis Won Best film award
The Burkina Faso National Tourism Board (Office National de Tourisme Burkinabe) that could have been used to promote FESPACO was last updated in 2008, and only mentions FESPACO as part of 35 other cultural festivals in the country. Visitors are then directed to the FESPACO website that is not updated frequently.
Because Burkina Faso does very little to sell the festival abroad, there is very little interest in the festival by international broadcasters. Only the BBC African service does complete coverage of the festival in French and English. Some African artists sahre their views on the freedom of artictic expression across the continent here here:
Time to Re-brand our film Industry
It is time organizers of FESPACO learn from the best. The 85th edition of Hollywood Oscars took place recently and is a red carpet ceremony of glitz, style and fashion. There is no reason why FESPACO cannot be like the Oscars. We all know it will take more than organizing an Oscar styled FESPACO award ceremony to revamp the film industry in Africa. The sleepy Africa Union must push member nations to invest a lot more in film production across the continent. A lot of African governments are still devoting a lot of resources to buying arms and keeping a standing army that has no wars to fight. Part of those resources should now be devoted to promoting the film indsutry across Africa. Theatres and cinemas that closed years ago should be encouraged to open up shop again across the continent. The proliferation of cheap home videos in no small way contributed in killing the business of cinema proprietors across Africa. The biggest single obstacle to making Africans enthusiastic to go back to cinema halls is the lack of African feature films. The handful of prize winning features from Africa have been produced by directors like Djibril Diop Mambety of Senegal, and Idriassa Quedrago of Burkina Faso. Most have been co-productions. Check this article from South Africa Film online on what is killing the film industry across the continent and how to remedy the situation here :
There might have been problems producing quality films in Africa but the continent has still managed against all odds to produce some award winning films. This is a list of the ten best films that have been produced in Africa in the last fifty years:
Its time we start telling the African story as only we can do that and shouting at the top of our voice to those who dont want to hear or pretend they have ear problems.
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