Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

FASHION

Jean-Marc Loubier, bags and shoes.

Read more

ENCORE!

Hip-hop musician Beat Assailant on mixing the sounds of the city

Read more

  • LIVE: French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • French journalist tells of release from captivity in Syria

    Read more

  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken South Korean ferry

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • In pictures: Good Friday celebrated across the globe

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Ukraine: ‘One bloody incident could scupper Geneva deal’

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • World honours Garcia Marquez’s magical literary legacy

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • Algeria's ailing Bouteflika clinches fourth term amid fraud claims

    Read more

  • Top Hollande adviser resigns over conflict of interest accusation

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

Culture

A stadium-sized rebuke to critics of film festivals

©

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2011-02-28

At the opening of Africa's largest film festival, FRANCE 24’s Leela Jacinto witnesses a stadium-sized rebuke to critics who complain that festivals are elite, accredited affairs cut away from the cinema-loving, ticket-paying public.

The 35,000 capacity football stadium teems with a sea of humanity, with long lines snaking out of every entrance.

Finally, after 23 months of waiting, the biennial 22nd Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou, or FESPACO) is here.

Africa’s largest film festival opens shortly after sunset at the August 4 stadium in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. August 4 happens to be the date when the former French West African colony changed its name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means "the land of the upright people" in Mooré and Dioula, the two major native languages.

Rather unusually for a film festival opening, FESPACO opens with a gigantic ceremony in a football stadium that is free and open to the public. I find that rather honourable and fitting for a country that has chosen to model itself after the moral integrity of its ancestral warriors.

People's party: Patiently waiting to enter the stadium. (Photo: L. Jacinto)

The August 4 stadium is packed to capacity with grannies, granddads, mothers, fathers and children waiting to get in. Most of the women are dressed in the graceful traditional long, slim wraparound skirt coupled with elaborately draped turbans in a riot of colours.

Every conceivable snack and beverage is being hawked here, from the lowly West African sugared peanut staple to bowls of fish marinated in delectably spicy sauces.

The human spirit of commerce and private enterprise is on magnificent display here as children dart around the stadium selling sealed packets of ice, and weather-beaten crones refuse to prise open the cloth covering their steaming cauldrons for a photograph unless you buy their fish stew.

I have eight more days of reporting to do, so I opt for gastric prudence over photo-op.

A smiling little boy dashes up to us, waving cardboard strips torn out of cartons.

C’est quoi?” What’s this? I ask the boy.

Stephane displays his wares of fruit carton cardboard strips. (Photo: L. Jacinto)

They are pieces of cardboard to sit on inside the stadium, explains Stephane, who says he’s 15, although I don’t believe him, he looks much younger.

Little Stephane has no time or inclination to answer my nosy questions. Am I willing to buy a cardboard strip for 15 CFAs – the equivalent of a few cents – or no?

Aha! Fifteen – or quinze in French – is the price of the cardboard, not his age. I’m not getting much information besides “quinze, quinze” from this kid. So I just buy two cardboard strips – for Stephane, for his family in some part of Ouagadougou or outside Ouagadougou, for the Burkinabe economy that seems to be flourishing on the sidelines of FESPACO, for the spirit of human enterprise and mankind’s drive to earn an honest living in the most difficult circumstances.

Armed with our much sought-after and fought-after press creds, we make our way to the calmer, more sanitized press enclosure.

Diplomats and jurists skirt the fiercely-guarded red carpet. (Photo: L. Jacinto)

But as we’re about to enter, I see the most improbable of sights. The enclosure next to the press section has a line-up of troops stationed next to a winding, unused red carpet. Sundry ambassadors and their wives – as well as eminent festival jurists from across the continent – trip along the edges of the carpet, apparently unworthy of a red carpet entry.

Pardon my naiveté, but I wasn’t expecting ceremonial troops at a film festival opening. I’m so tickled that we decide to try to enter the VVIP lounge.

It’s a bit of a challenge. But on my personal scale of clawing, scratching, charming and wheedling to enter out-of-bound spaces, this ranks a low two-out-of-ten.

The only time we get into almost serious trouble is when my shoes accidentally scrape the edge of the red carpet as I’m manoeuvring through armies of festival organizers trying to block our paths. That’s when security officials approach menacingly yelling at us to keep off the carpet.

Now, I’m really excited. This smells of high-level official presence. Will Burkinabé President Blaise Campaoré attend the ceremony? I slip into a reporter’s reverie: will he enter with his old African Union chum, Libyan Col. Muammar Gaddafi? Will Gaddafi’s Amazonian securitywomen proceed to erect a tent on the football grounds in a last display of megalomaniacal chutzpah? The possibilities are endless and the evening is wide open for drama…

Inside the stadium, the master of ceremonies Noscotte Joseph Tapsoba – I have no idea who he is, but folks here say he’s famous – revs up the crowd.

Ouaga est-ce que ça va?” Ouaga, how you doin’? he asks, compelling the crowd to shout their replies ever louder.

A line-up of bands belt out songs, while the crowd roars, stomps and dances with African abandon. For all the critics who bitch about film festivals restricted to accredited festival circles cut away from the cinema-loving, ticket-paying public, this opening is a stadium-sized rebuke.

Guards to the left, girls to the right, the prime minister is here. (Photo: L. Jacinto)

Suddenly a line-up of guards in splendid red capes appears in our VVIP spot on the stadium grounds. Next, a bevy of female festival volunteers – all young, slim, beautiful and bedecked in blue traditional robes – stand in formation. Something is about to happen…

Tapsoba – the very famous MC I’ve never heard of – announces that Burkinabe Prime Minister Tertius Zongo, on behalf of the Burkinabe government, is here to officially open the festival.

I guess this means no Campaoré or Gaddafi. But by now, I’m enjoying myself so immensely, I don’t particularly care.

Zongo declares the festival open. It’s followed by spectacular dance routines by schoolchildren and young dancers dressed in primary colours. The crowd goes wild. A roaring sound from the left side of the grounds heralds a heart-stopping cavalry show with riders performing daredevil stunts on horses galloping at full-lick.

The cavalry show is a tribute to Burkina Faso’s proud pre-colonial tradition as an equestrian nation.

The most prestigious festival award – the FESPACO equivalent or the Cannes Palme d’Or – is called the Stallion of Yennenga, which is named after a 12th century African warrior princess whose son Ouedraogo founded the Mossi Kingdoms, which ruled this region from the medieval ages until the 19th century colonial era.

Let the festival begin. Every single Burkinabe I’ve interviewed at the stadium has told me that he or she intends to see as many films as possible for the next eight days. There are a mind-numbing package of 111 films in competition, which do not include the hundreds of screenings of non-competition feature films, short films, documentaries and TV and video productions to be sampled in the coming days. This cinema-mad country has its agenda set for the next few days.

 

 

 

Date created : 2011-02-27

  • AFRICAN CINEMA

    Reporter's notebook: Racing around Ouaga, seeking credentials and answers

    Read more

  • AFRICAN CINEMA

    Uprisings under the spotlight at Africa’s largest film festival

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)