Africa: Pan African Film Festival Begins in Burkina Faso

A fan celebrates at the opening of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou 2019.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — The Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou returns to Burkina Faso this weekend after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One Burkinabe director, who has made a film documenting a nursery for the infants of sex workers, talks about the importance of telling African stories through cinema.

Moumouni Sanou is a documentary film director from Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso's second largest city.

In 2019, he made a film, which is being screened at The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, or FESPACO.

Night Nursery follows the story of an older woman who runs a nighttime home for sex workers' children in Bobo Dioulasso.

Sanou said he wants Night Nursery to humanize sex workers.

Sanou said the idea was to show a different side to sex workers, which is very rarely seen. In Burkina Faso and in the rest of Africa this profession is frowned upon, he said. "But it is also the oldest profession in the world. When we see these girls, people say they are bad people because they are sex workers," he adds.

FESPACO has been running since 1969 and this year will feature films from around 30 African countries in its official selection. Cinema professionals and cinephiles travel from all over Africa and beyond to attend.

"FESPACO is one of the biggest African film festivals, and for me to be selected and represent Burkina Faso in the documentary film section will mean this film will be seen by the whole world, not just by Africans," Sanou said.

Ardiouma Soma, the director of FESPACO, says that this year, the event will also host the African International Film & TV Market -- known as MICA -- for the first time.

Soma said, because this year the MICA will be held at FESPACO they have invited distributors, whose names he prefers not to mention, to Ouagadougou. He said the market will allow them to find new projects that are in post-production and also films that are already finished but not scheduled for FESPACO, so that they can buy them for their own platforms.

Last year, FESPACO, which usually happens every two years, was cancelled due to COVID-19. Burkina Faso is also in the middle of a conflict with terrorist groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Burkina Faso's culture minister, Élise Foniyama Ilboudo Thiombiano, said it is important the festival goes on.

She said it's a challenge for Burkinabè to continue to be able to keep the festival going every two years. But it is through cinema we can see the vision of Africans and the people who live on this continent, she adds. She points out that her predecessors all made sure FESPACO remained a focal point for Africa and she intends to do the same.

As for Sanou, he is hoping Night Nursery could receive an award, and the recognition it needs to win a wide audience.

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