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, marked by a more upscale setting to celebrate its 40th year.
AFP - About 20,000 people Saturday attended the opening ceremony of Africa's biggest film festival FESPACO, which fetes its 40th year amid a gloomy backdrop for cinema houses in large swathes of the continent.
For this year's 21st edition of the bi-annual Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) the open air screenings around the Burkina capital have been abandoned for more upmarket film halls with red carpets for stars and directors to make their grand entrance.
Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, Guinea's Cheick Fantamady Camara and Nigeria's Newton Aduaka attended the glittering opening ceremony, replete with giant puppets, traditional music and a spectacular pyrotechnics display.
Malian actor Sotigui Kouyate who won the top actor award in Berlin this year for his role in "London River" as a Muslim father searching for his son in the wake of the July 2005 public transport bombings in the British capital, also turned up for the event.
While some 300 films will be shown in all this year, 128 works are competing for the festival's 24 prizes including the top award, the Etalon d'Or de Yennenga (The Golden Stallion of Yennenga).
Some of the 19 films competing for the Etalon d'Or have already won accolades abroad.
Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima has already won a best screen play and special jury prize during last year's Venice film festival for his film "Teza".
The movie shows the return of a idealistic Ethiopian intellectual who returns from Europe to his home village under the brutal 1970s-1980s regime of Haile Mengistu Mariam.
"Les Jardins de Samira" (Samira's Garden) -- about a woman who falls for a young man after being disappointed in her elderly husband -- by Moroccan director Latif Lahlou won best screenplay at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2007.
A former winner of the Golden Stallion is back this year for another try. Nabil Ayou won in 2001 and is now hoping to become the first director to win the award twice with "Whatever Lola wants".
In all, the films selected show a varied picture of Africa with films from the Maghreb, southern Africa and West Africa. Conspicuously absent from the competition is Nigeria whose Nollywood is the world's third biggest movie industry after the United States and India.
Organisers hope that the films in this year's FESPACO with its theme "African cinema, tourism and cultural heritage" will also show the diversity and beauty of the continent.
The festival has secured 13 screening rooms throughout Ouagadougou to show movies. The open air screenings that marked past editions of FESPACO have scrapped in an attempt to lure the public back to the movie theatres.
For years the African film industry has been ailing with the current global economic downturn expected to deal another blow. In recent years movie theatres on the continent have closed down, pushed out by widely available pirated DVDs.
Date created : 2009-03-01