Notes on FESPACO

Forwarding from our colleague Atoma Batoma at the University of Illinois, who made a recent visit to Burkina Faso and now serves as chair of the Africana Librarians Council:

“The attached document contains a list of 973 films presented at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), which takes place in the Burkina Faso’s capital city of Ouagadougou. It covers the entire production of the festival since its founding in 1969. This document was provided to me during an International Book Buying trip funded by the International and Area Studies library (IAS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

“I arrived in Ouagadougou on April 5, 2017, a month after the conclusion of the FESPACO 2017, the 25th edition of the festival that had taken place from February 25th through March 4th. I met with several employees and Mr. Serge Kahoun, the curator of the film depository. After being given a tour of the premises of the Festival and the impressive storage facilities for housing several thousand reels, I sat down for an hour conversation with Mr. Kahoun. In his presentation of the history of the festival, he touched upon some important aspects: the role of FESPACO as a leading cultural event in Africa, the progressive increase in the number of the participants over the years, and the internationalization of the festival and its impact on the African film making ethics. At the same time, the festival organizers have had to implement increasingly heavier security measures, especially since Burkina Faso has been hit by a series of attacks by Islamist militants over the past few years.

“The 973 films listed in this document comprise short films, full-length films, documentaries, and TV series. They can be divided into two categories based on the perspective on the African reality they portray: the perspective that presents perceptions of Africa from within, that is, African self-perceptions, and the perspective that presents Africa from an external or critical standpoint.

“English and French are the two dominant languages of the Festival, but there is also a non-negligible number of films in African languages. As a principle, all the films in English are supposed to be systematically subtitled in French and vice versa, and the films in African languages subtitled either in English or French, but perhaps due to the increasing volume of submissions (1,000 in 2017), this principle has not always been followed.

“One of the problems that the Festival needs to solve is that of the accessibility of its films. FESPACO does not have a store that sells its productions, and there are no other distribution circuits. The only way to obtain FESPACO films is to order them directly from the film maker/directors. Fortunately, the list provided in this spreadsheet contains the film makers’ contact information (physical addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.).”

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