On the heels of yesterday's closing night awards ceremony, as well as my post on filmmakers lamenting the festival's strict 35MM screening print requirement for films that compete for its Étalon de Yennenga prizes, comes an announcement from FESPACO itself that, beginning during its next event, the 24th edition, scheduled for February 28 to March 7, 2015, the official competition will be open to, not only films shot and presented in digital format, but also non-African films of the diaspora.
To the first point, in short, up until this announcement, only films that could be screened via a 35MM print were eligible to compete for the Étalon de Yennenga (Stallion of Yennenga) awards - the top film prizes at the festival, akin to the Grand Jury Prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Films shot on and available to screen only in a digital format, were placed in their own separate category, and were not allowed to compete for the main competition prizes.
I wrote about that entire matter in a previous post, which you should read HERE.
Welcome to the 21st century FESPACO.
As for the new inclusion of non-African films of the diaspora, again, until today's announcement, non-African films of the diaspora were accepted, but relegated to their own separate category called Films Of The Diaspora. They also weren't eligible to compete for the main Stallion awards.
One long-standing concern here (previously addressed by the Director General of the festival Michel Ouedraogo) has been whether the inclusion of films from outside of Africa (although part of the diaspora, like black American cinema) might actually displace African cinema, since there's a gap (financial, technological, overall filmic experience) between filmmakers from a poorer country like say Chad, and the USA. A question previously posed is whether there should remain a distinction between African films, and films from outside Africa, instead of having them compete against each other; essentially a way to *defend* African cinema, we could say.
But all of that will change beginning in 2015 (the festival takes place every 2 years), which should be music to the ears of many filmmakers. I'm looking forward to seeing what the overall impact on the festival will be.
Other changes announced for 2015 include the doubling of the Stallion award cash prizes: the Bronze Stallion will increase from 2.5 million CFA to 5 million CFA (or about $10,000); the Silver Stallion will increase from 5 million CFA to 10 million CFA (or about $20,000); and the Golden Stallion will increase from 10 million CFA to 20 million CFA (or about $40,000).
Nice chunk of change there.
Now if only some of that available cash will also be invested in a new FESPACO website, as well as a Twitter and Facebook presence, all by 2015...