Faced with jihadism, the “resilience” of Burkina Faso through cinema
The holding since Saturday February 25 in Ouagadougou of the largest African film festival, the Fespaco, testifies to the “resilience” of Burkina Faso in the face of the jihadist attacks which have intensified in recent months.
“We had to succeed in convincing our government and partners of the importance of Fespaco in such difficult times.“, explains Alex Moussa Sawadogo, general delegate of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou which ended on March 4. “I am very happy, even proud, that our authorities have decided to organize this event.“, he adds.
The country, the scene of two coups in 2022, has been caught up in a spiral of jihadist violence since 2015. mali and at Niger a few years earlier. In seven years, they caused more than 10,000 deaths in the burkina, according to NGOs. “Burkina Faso is a resilient country“says Alex Moussa Sawadogo who refuses to give in to the imagination of a country”painted red», in reference to the many chancelleries which advise their nationals against going there.
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A speech also carried by the Minister of Culture, Jean Emmanuel Ouédraogo: “The Fespaco is one of the elements of the Burkina Faso postcard, so it was very important for us to maintain this 28th edition.“, placed under close military surveillance. 170 works on various themes have been selected in the official competition, including fifteen fiction feature films in the running for the supreme award, the Yennenga Gold Stallion, which will be awarded on Saturday at the end of the festival.
This year, a great first, certain films will be screened in Kaya (centre north) and Dédougou (centre west), with people displaced by violence. At the same time, for the past five years, around fifteen young professionals have been training teenagers in film professions in several cities across the country, including those targeted by the jihadists.
“It’s the motivation and the love of cinemawho bring the students, explains Issa Kaboré, one of these trainers in Dori (north-east), in a region emptied by multiple attacks. Aged between 12 and 35, studentsalways find ways to travel to come to the training“, continues Issa, cameraman and editor, despite the diversion of fuel tanks by jihadist groups which prevent the population from moving easily.
“To resist is also to create”
Like him, a generation of young filmmakers in the makingsucceeds in transcending this crisis“says Alex Moussa Sawadogo. According to him, “resistance, or resilience, is not only taking up arms and going to the front, resistance is also creating“. In the city center of Ouagadougou, a large colorful fresco recalls the fight of the Burkinabe army against jihadism.
One of the drawings also evokes the role of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP, civilian auxiliaries of the army), deployed by the tens of thousands throughout the country. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who came to power in a putsch on September 30, 2022, has set himself the goal of “win back» the approximately 40% of Burkinabe territory controlled by jihadist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda et al’Islamic State.
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And if he was absent at the Fespaco opening ceremony on Saturday, culture “remains a priority“, assures Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo. “We are aware that the war waged against our enemies is not just a military fight“, but “also a fight that must be waged in terms of culture“, he says.
Despite the crisis, Alex Moussa Sawadogo assures him: Burkina “remains the largest contributor to Fespaco“, while bringing “financial support for many film actors“. Fespaco is also supported by foreign countries. This year, the European Union renewed its contribution to the festival, to the tune of 250,000 euros, despite the war in Ukraine which had worried Burkinabe cinema.
“Many Europeans are co-producers of African films, and we were afraid“that they postpone their support”in Ukrainian cinema“, explains Mr. Sawadogo. According to the organizer of Fespaco, now reassured, the films screened “will flood festivals, not only African but international, and that’s when we will know that Africa is standing, creative“.