By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 2, 2013 at 10:56AM
A new year of film festivals begins later this month with the grand-daddy of them all (here in the USA anyway) the Sundance Film Festival, opening its doors on January 15.
In February, however, in addition to the Pan African Film Festival that takes place in Los Angeles, CA, here in the USA, there will also be the Pan-African Film & TV Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), happening in Burkina Faso, West Africa - a festival that occurs only once every two years.
The twenty third (23rd) edition of the Pan-African Film & TV Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) will take place from February 23 to March 2, 2013 with “African Cinema and Public Policy in Africa” as this edition’s theme.
It's a major continental Africa film festival, although one that's also recently been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism from attendees; like this one from internationally celebrated Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Un Homme Qui Crie), after the last FESPACO event in 2011:
"In September 1997, we set up the Guild because we faced the same problems. We had no rooms and spent the night around the Hotel Indépendance poolside talking till six in the morning. Today, the same things are happening again! These small, incidental [hiccups] take[...] on huge proportions when the problems cumulate. In his opening speech at the stadium, the Minister of Culture didn't seem to think fit to talk about film; he spoke about Burkina's culinary specialties, such as "bicycle" and rabilé chicken. I know the Minister of Culture is also the Minister of Tourism, but the Fespaco is first and foremost a film event. Does this festival truly respect cinema, or is it simply a popular festivity people come to for the sun and millions distributed in special awards? Must we continue to accept this due to an essentialism that is specific to us? It's a typically African social comedy, rooted in our traditions, in which there is no solidarity between the filmmakers. And we sustain this farce by our presence. I get the impression that there is no longer any reflection on film here, and if we don't reflect on film, it's difficult to take it elsewhere and to escape the ghetto we are shut in. We become just image-makers. In Burkina, since Idrissa Ouedraogo stopped shooting, there's no cinema anymore.. "
It's worth adding that, after the 2011 installment of FESPACO, Haroun proclaimed that he would no longer attend the film festival. A rather damning statement coming from one of your own!
Also, I recall a series of tweets from Cameron Bailey (director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and a long-time FESPACO regular) during the latter half of the 2011 festival, expressing a simultaneous regret and hope, stating, for example:
"getting harder to swallow disappointment here, and it's not the choking dust. So much goodwill in Ouaga, but..."
Criticism generally seemed to center mostly around matters of organization, focus/emphasis, and opportunity.
Will this year's event, 2013, see some change, 2 years later, and will we hear less of those cries from filmmakers and attending audiences?
The issues appear to be larger than the festival itself.
All the registration forms and regulations related to the participation in the 23rd edition of the FESPACO are available and can be checked and downloaded at: www.fespaco.bf.