African film festival turns 40 with pride

Fri Feb 27, 2009 10:06am EST
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By Katrina Manson

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Big-screen tales of township gangsters and cattle-preying lions compete at next week's 40th anniversary FESPACO Pan-African film festival, showcasing the continent's wide-ranging cinematic talent.

Far from the red carpets and paparazzi of Cannes and Venice, film lovers will throng movie halls in dusty Burkina Faso, where every two years cinema comes to the masses in one of the world's poorest countries.

"There's no other festival in the world like it -- it's a populist event," said head judge Gaston Kabore, himself a popular director from Burkina Faso.

"When people can't get in because the theatres are full, they just grab a beer and mill around with the filmmakers, drinking in the atmosphere," he told Reuters in an interview.

Conference halls have been transformed into cinemas for the week and in outlying districts of the capital Ouagadougou viewers will perch on concrete pews in open-air theatres beneath the Sahelian star-scape for 200 CFA ($0.40) apiece.

Instead of the usual imported kick-flicks and Bollywood blockbusters on show at disheveled cinema halls, FESPACO offers a broad wealth of African imagery.

"African films are always full. We don't like all the special effects from Hollywood ... We are proud to see ourselves and want to do it ourselves too," said Moumini Sawadogo, a 28-year-old IT worker.


<p>A technician gets ready to start a projection for the jury during the competition of Africa's top cinema festival FESPACO in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, March 2, 2005. REUTERS/ Ouaba Yemi Ahmed</p>