I made a quick weekend trip to Ouaga for the last two days of FESPACO 2011, Africa’s biggest film festival, and was able to catch two films (film descriptions taken from the official program):
When China Met Africa
A historic gathering of over 50 African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr Liu is about to buy his fourth farm; Manager Li is upgrading one of the country’s longest roads and the Zambian Trade Minister is on route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment. Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, a global shift in power from west to east is laid bare.
Le Dernier Convoi (The Last Convoy)
Master Jim teaches Kung Fu in a far country. One day, he receives a letter from his friend Simon who learns martial arts to children, in a town where insecurity is a reality. Master Jim decides to pay visit to his friend Simon. After a hectic start where he quarrels with a bandit who names Geo, because of Aline, he ends up finding Simeon who introduces his pupils.
The former, half in English and half in Chinese (all with French subtitles) is about some of China’s infrastructure investments in Zambia in exchange for mineral rights. I felt like I had a breakthrough with my French, as I was able to understand a good amount of French subtitles, which were even needed for many of the scenes done in poorly spoken African or Chinese English. But my exuberance was short lived as I could barely understand The Last Convoy, a Burkinabé kung-fu movie. Thankfully most of it was action based, so I could get by alright. By American standards the film was terribly acted/produced, but perhaps because of its terribleness and chosen genre, it was pretty fun to watch. The juxtaposition of two story lines is quite humorous, with one trying to be an epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type film with grandiose orchestral music, while the other half tries to be more like The Matrix with a Prodigy soundtrack.
The two theaters were just as different as the movies. The first, which cost 1000 CFA (~$2) was indoors, had nice red comfortable chairs, and most importantly air conditioning. The film was even introduced by FESPACO staff in both French and English. The second theater was cheaper at 500 CFA (~$1), was outside, had no introduction, and had generally worse equipment (a large white wall instead of a screen, worse speakers, etc) including hot to the touch metal benches. But, both were great experiences. Like any good theater, there was plenty of popcorn, but this was the first time I’ve been to a theater and brought in bananas, peanuts and bissap as well.
Neither theater was particularly crowded, but I suppose that’s what I get for showing up for the last two days. Check out this piece in SENGO for an overview of the festival and the reporter’s experience during the opening ceremonies. Sadly I didn’t see any of the award winners, though the overall winner was Pégase, a Moroccan film (who won 10,000,000 CFA – about $22,000) which has this interesting description:
A young daughter of about 20 years old from the village is in a fancy interior world and believes having been raped by a demon that would like killing her because she is pregnant from him. Zuneb, a psychiatrist, discovers in him strange things. This demon does it exist?
I’ll leave you with this screenshot from the official program. Made even more humorous due to the fact that kids call me le blanc when they see me. It’s like a Burkinabé LOLCat.