OF FESPACO 2015
Digital technologies of filmmaking prove to be a mixed blessing at FESPACO 2015
by Tsitsi Dangarembga, Director, ICAPA Trust
The 2015 edition of FESPACO was held from 28 February to 7 March in Ouagadougou, Burkina, where the celebration of African film-making, African filmmakers and African films has taken place since 195 , on twenty four occasions. The celebration is sadly out of reach of most practising Zimbabwean filmmakers due to the costs of travel. I was fortunate and honoured to be invited to serve on the Grand Jury to judge the feature film competition. Congratulations are due to Burkina Faso and its government for continuing its great tradition of upholding the importance of filmmaking to the African continent in spite of the ongoing situation in the country. FESPACO is arguably one of only three high profile events conceived and implemented on the African continent that are designed to recognise, honour and support financially the makers of fine African narrative and their products, the other two being the Luxor African Film Festival (Egypt) and the Etisalat Prize for Literature (Nigeria).
Nineteen films were selected to vie for the Stallion of Yennenga in the long film competition at FESPACO, with countries represented being Egypt, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Algeria, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Mali, Nigeria and Mauritania.
Judging this year’s film festival was inspiring but also more challenging than usual. The President of the Jury, Kwaw Ansah, in his remarks, emphasised the need to pay attention to the quality of films produced by African filmmakers, especially in an era where new technology allows visual narrative to be produced at the material level of the moving image without the emotional and mental levels that are essential to good film production necessarily being engaged with. New technology is also popular because it reduces the cost of making a film. However, it is fair to say that generally there is a corollary between the cost of a film and its quality, so that new technology should not be used as an excuse to cut funding to filmmaking. In fact, this would lower the quality of films made and make African filmmaking, already challenged, less attractive. Funders and the filmmakers themselves were urged to pay particular attention to script writing and project development, as many of the submitted films could well have been strengthened at these levels.
Worthy winners were nevertheless selected from amongst the submissions. The full list of the decisions of the Grand Jury is given below. South African filmmaker Rehad Desai is to be congratulated for his win in the documentary film competition with his film MINERS SHOT DOWN about the 2013 upheaval in the Marikana mining community.
BEST POSTER Cellule 512, Burkina Faso
BEST SETTING Timbuktu, Mali
BEST ACTOR Fargass Assandé in L’Oeil du Cyclone, Burkina Faso
BEST ACTRESS Maimouna N’diaye in Cyclone, Burkina Faso
BEST EDITING Fadhma N’Soumer, Algeria
BEST MUSIC Timbuktu, Mali
BEST SOUND Fadhma N’Soumer, Algeria
BEST CAMERA C’Est Eux Les Chiens, Morocco
BEST SCRIPT Fadhma N’Soumer, Algeria
BEST DIRECTOR Hicham Ayouch, Morocco
PAUL ROBESON PRIZE FOR THE BEST DIAPORA PRODUCTION Morbayassa, Guinea Conakry
OUMAROU GANDA PRIZE FOR THE BEST FIRST FILM L’Oeil du Cyclone, Burkina Faso
BRONZE STALLION L’Oeil du Cyclone, Burkina Faso
SILVER STALLION Fadhma N’Soumer, Algeria
GOLD STALLION Fievres, Morocco
The absence of Southern African films, apart from one South African production in the FESPACO long feature film competition selection indicates that Southern African governments are not taking the future seriously, since the future is predicated on creative industries and particularly moving images. The absence of Southern African productions was also glaring in the Television Series and the African Film Schools competitions.
In the documentary film competition, southern Africa was well represented by Madagascar with ‘The Malagasy Way’, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ‘Mantuila, un fou de la guitar’, South Africa’s ‘Miners Shot Down’, Namibia’s ‘Paths to Freedom’ and Angola’s ‘Tango Negro, les Racine Africaines du Tango’.
Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo were represented in the short film competition by ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Sister Oyo’ respectively. Mauritius produced the out of competition feature ‘Lombraz Kann’. The region’s short films out of competition included ‘Le Petit Bonhomme de Riz’ from Madagascar and ‘Samaki Mchangani’ from Tanzania which was also screened at IIFF 2014.
Zimbabwe’s inability to compete at continental level continues with no Zimbabwean film having been selected for this year’s FESPACO, calling out for stakeholders invested in film, or who should be invested in film in the country, to revise their strategies urgently.