FESPACO turns 50
Africa’s largest film festival, the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), celebrated its 50th anniversary from 24 February-2 March. The 26th edition of the festival brought together nearly 100 000 film-lovers and screened 165 films from 16 African countries. The government deployed about 2 000 security forces to maximize security surveillance and protect the festival. Joël Karekezi, a Rwandan filmmaker, won the prestigious Golden Stallion of Yennenga for his “Mercy of the Jungle,” a film that denounces the absurdity of war. His main actor, Marc Zinga, won the best male performance award. The best actress award went to Samantha Mugotsia who played in "Rafiki," a love story between two women in Kenya. The 50th anniversary celebration offered a moment of reflection on the theme, “Memory and future of the African cinema.” Created in 1969, the festival has always had a strong track record promoting social change and cultural diversity. This year’s edition was more open to non-French-speaking African films, with feature films in Swahili and Portuguese. It also addressed some unexplored territories, such as autism and violence against women. Rwanda was the guest country of honour during the 26th edition of the festival. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda both participated in the celebrations and both received the ‘Grand Croix de l’Etalon’ award from their Burkinabe host, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. The president of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for an "intellectual, cultural and pedagogical awakening,” to be able “to profoundly change the way we look at ourselves, at what we have and what we can do". Women remain underrepresented, with only four women out a total of 16 filmmakers. The Burkinabé Apolline Traoré was one of the favourite candidates going in, but she only won a technical prize for her film “Desrances” about Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election violence. No woman filmmaker has ever won the top prize. The next Fespaco edition will take place in 2021.