Africa: Tunisian Thriller 'Ashkal' Snags Top Gong At Africa's Fespaco Film Fest

FESPACO HQ in Ouagadougou (file photo)

Tunisian director Youssef Chebbi won the coveted Stallion of Yennenga award at the biennial pan-African Fespaco film festival in Ouagadougou for his murder mystery oeuvre "Ashkal".

The Stallion of Yennenga (Etalon d'or de Yennenga) is awarded for the fictional or documentary feature film that best depicts African realities.

Chebbi's film centres on an investigation into the killing of a caretaker on a construction site at Carthage on the outskirts of his hometown.

The Tunis-born filmmaker, who is 38, told RFI he was "immensely happy" to have received the award, calling it a "great honour".

"The film borrows things from Tunisian reality but looks at them from another point of view," he said.

This includes embracing the legends and narrative that emerged during the Jasmine Revolution - the 28-day civil resistance campaign that began in December 2020 with the self-immolation of 26-year-old street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid.

The revolution culminated in the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"For me, the image of immolation is highly iconic; it permeates Tunisian society," Chebbi said.

"Only a few years ago we said that people who immolated themselves were martyrs and now we call them the killjoys of the transition to democracy.

"cIt shows there's been a drift: we've already forgotten the tyranny, and there's a clear aberration over security too."

Chebbi did not attend the ceremony in Burkina Faso, which this year was presided over by military leader Ibrahim Traoré.

A representative collected the prize on Chebbi's behalf.

Since Fespaco began in 1969, no woman has won the top prize, but nearly half of the entries in the fiction category were directed by women.

Burkinabé director Apolline Traore picked up the Silver Stallion award for her film "Sira", the story of a woman's struggle for survival after she is kidnapped by jihadis in the Sahel.

Third place went to Kenya's Angela Wamai for "Shimoni", about a man at odds with his environment and at war with his inner demons.

A total of 170 films were in this year's line up on the theme "cinemas of Africa and culture of peace".

Prizes for best male and female actors went to the entire cast of "Under the Fig Trees" by female Tunisian filmmaker Erige Sehiri.

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