Africa’s biggest film festival kicks off in Burkina Faso

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OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) – Africa’s largest film festival kicks off in Burkina Faso on Saturday amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing jihadist insurgency in the West African country that has killed thousands of people and displaced over a million in recent years.

Alex Moussa Sawadogo, director of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival in Ouagadougou, said the organizers wanted to move forward with the event known by its French acronym, FESPACO, despite the challenges to show that Burkina Faso can still “inspire the imagination through cinema”.

“This event will be a FESPACO of resistance because it takes place in difficult security and health conditions,” he told The Associated Press during an interview in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Sawadogo said the number of sites has been reduced this year.

The week-long festival features works by African filmmakers and works produced on the continent. Out of nearly 1,200 films submitted, 282 were shortlisted for competition, some of which have already been screened at venues like Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival.

Participants say they hope FESPACO will be a breath of fresh air for a nation in pain. Boubakar Diallo, director and double FESPACO winner, will debut his comedy “Les 3 Lascars”, about three friends going on a trip with their mistresses.

“In these very difficult times for Burkina Faso and all the countries of the Sahel because of the terrorist attacks, I have the pleasure of presenting a beautiful comedy to make people smile, entertain the public and ask questions about our current identity, to show our identity to others and take advantage of theirs, ”said Diallo, 59.

Burkina Faso was once considered a beacon of peaceful coexistence in the region, which some attribute to its rich cultural scene.

“Culture lays the foundation for development. This is crucial for living together in peace, ”said Alexander Widmer, head of governance at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Burkina Faso, which co-finances the film festival.

Some people believe the event could be an opportunity to unite an increasingly fractured nation and remind the world that it is always open for business.

“It is now that FESPACO is even more important for the country,” said Koudbi Kaboré, historian and researcher at Joseph Ki Zerbo University in Ouagadougou. “It showcases African cinema, and its outfit will undoubtedly restore Burkina Faso’s image as a good destination for business and investment.

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