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African film festival FESPACO rolls out the red carpet

Latest update : 2009-03-03

Nearly 20,000 people attended the opening ceremony of the 21st edition of the bi-annual Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, Africa's biggest film festival. Opening films focused on how albinos are treated in Africa.

AFP - More then 10 years after first securing Pan-African festival honours, Malian directors Adama Drabo and Ladji Diakite are back in Ouagadougou with a new film that focuses on a very current problem: the treatment of albinos in Africa.
   
Recently there has been a spate of killings of albinos in Tanzania, plus reports of the same happening in Burundi. Attackers hunt albinos for body parts which are then sold to sorcerers to make lucky charms; such body parts can now fetch thousands of dollars in Tanzania.
   
In "Fantan Fanga" (The Power of the Pauper), the filmmakers show the dramatic problem faced by albinos.
   
"It's a problem in all African societies, they are hunted everywhere for their limbs or genitals," Diakite told AFP as Africa's biggest film festival prepared to get under way.
   
"Fantan Fanga" follows an investigation into the murder of an albino against the backdrop of a Mali in turmoil. The country is portrayed as a young democracy where the president has just stepped down creating uncertainty and where there has been an apparent return to human sacrifice.
   
The film is the second part of a trilogy about Malian society and family life. The first, "Tafe Fanga" (Skirt Power), written and directed by Drabo, explored the role of women in Malian village life. It took a special jury prize at the Pan-African festival in 1997.
   
Drabo wrote the script for the second film but then fell ill and had to leave his assistant Diakite to finish the project.
   
While "Fantan Fanga" is one of many films at Ouagadougou this year to explore current problems in African society, the directors say they are careful not to judge.
   
"We don't condemn it, we just show it. A filmmaker shows society the way it is," Diakite said.
   
The 21st edition of the bi-annual Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou was opening Sunday with another film that explores how tradition and superstition permeate African society.
   
In the Cameroonian film "Mah Saah-Sah" (Bamoun Love), the official opening film, director Daniel Kamwa tells of an orphaned boy who moves to a new village.
   
The boy, Nchare, quickly falls in love with a young girl, but there are rumours that she is not circumcised, creating problems for the sweethearts.
   
Other films in competition for the festival's top award, the Etalon d'Or de Yennenga (The Golden Stallion of Yennenga), explore the theme of immigration from Africa.
   
They focus not only on the problems of those wanting to emigrate, but also look at those who left and then returned, only to find they are alienated from their homeland.
   
In "Teza," Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima shows the difficult return of an idealistic Ethiopian intellectual from Europe to his home village under the brutal 1970s-1980s regime of Haile Mengistu Mariam.
   
Returning is also at the heart of "L'Absence" (The Absence) by Mali's Mama Keita which shows a successful Senegalese scientist coming home to find his family in tatters and his sister involved in prostitution.
   
The festival has secured 13 screening rooms throughout Ouagadougou; open air screenings that marked past festivals have been scrapped in an attempt to lure the public back inside movie theatres.
   
For years the African film industry has been ailing, with the current global economic downturn expected to deal it another blow. In recent years, cinemas on the continent have closed down, pushed out by widely available pirated DVDs.

Date created : 2009-03-01

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