Burkina film festival in full swing despite fighting on its doorstep

Thursday March 02 2023
Fespaco film festival in Burkina Faso

Visitors on February 25, 2023 attend the opening ceremony of the 28th Pan-African Film and television Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. PHOTO | OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT | AFP


In Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, soldiers are seen giving directions to movie-goers and journalists attending the continent's premier film festival that is going ahead this year despite the violent insurgency gripping many of its regions.

Since the biannual Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco) was last held in 2021, the West African country has had to deal with the political fallout from two coups within eight months and spiralling violence driven by groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The festival's delegate-general, Alex Moussa Sawadogo, said Burkina Faso had been dealing with the insecurity for several years, but it remained important to show that culture and its people continue to exist.

"Organizing an event like Fespaco is to show the world that Burkina Faso is a country that wants to continue writing stories of world cinema," he told Reuters.

In total, 170 films are being screened, including 15 feature films and about 30 short films in competition.

In the feature films category, movies from 13 countries are competing, including the movie Sira, directed by homegrown talent Apolline Traoré.


If successful, the Burkinabe director would be the first female filmmaker to win the Golden Stallion award.

Her movie tells the story of a young woman abandoned in the desert who decides to stand up to a group of terrorists.

"I live in a country that is suffering. I am neither a politician nor in the army. I only have my art to express myself and it was a way for me to participate in this fight against terrorism," Traoré said.

The conflict blighting the Sahel region south of the Sahara took root after a 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali.

Despite costly international efforts to contain it, the insurgency has spread to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger, killing thousands of people and driving over 2 million from their homes.