Tuesday, March 08, 2005

South African film wins at FESPACO

Every other February, the small, hot and dry West African country of Burkina Faso hosts one of the world's top film festival. The FESPACO film festival, held in Burkina's capital Ouagadougou, brings together the small, but vibrant, African film community. This year, the winner of the top prize, l'Etalon d'or de Yennenga was the film Drum, by the South African director Zola Maseko.

The film centres on a determined reporter and his clashes with the apartheid regime, notes the BBC. The hero of Drum is the fun loving, hard-drinking philanderer, Henry Nxumalo, a magazine reporter. Nxumalo's enterprising reportage leads him into direct conflict with South Africa's apartheid machinery with fatal consequences.

Drum is only the second English-language film to win FESPACO's top prize since 1989. The African film industry is most vibrant in West and North Africa, which are predominantly French- and Arab-speaking respectively.

Second prize went to the Moroccan film, La Chambre Noire, a film about the tortures and extra judicial imprisonment in 1970s Morocco, part of the period referred as 'The Years of Lead' in the country.

Tasuma Le Feu, a comedy by Burkinabe director Kollo Sanou carried the third prize. It tells the story of an elderly ex-serviceman, Tasuma, who fought for France but was still waiting for his pension years later. Fed up with waiting Tasuma holds the district administrator hostage and forces him to dictate a letter to French President General Charles de Gaulle - who unknown to Tasuma is long dead.

In conjunction with the festival, Burkina Faso's most famous cineaste Gaston Kaboré (who directed such wonderful films as Wend Kuuni and Zan Boko) has decided to use his money to open up the country's first film school.

In a related story, Le Monde has an interview (in French) with the legendary Senegalese director and poet Sembène Ousmane.


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