Here's What You Need To Know About Africa's Biggest Film Festival

Here are some of the films showing at the annual Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou this Sunday.

When Hollywood celebrates its film industry this Sunday at the Oscars, African filmmakers will be vetting their own at the Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la television de Ouagadougou (The Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou or FESPACO) in Burkina Faso. This year, the 25th celebration of FESPACO will take place from February 25 to March 4.

Since 1969, thousands of film lovers and filmmakers in West Africa have come together, every two years, for the continent’s preeminent film festival and competition. Feature filmmakers compete for the Golden Stallion (or L’Étalon de Yennega), the highest award granted at FESPACO. In 1969 only 23 films from five African countries were screened. This year’s festival will feature over 150 films under the theme “Training and trades in Film and Audiovisual," and honor films from the Ivory Coast.

The festival is so important to Brazilian academic, Janaína Oliveira, that, for her, it’s worth passing up Rio de Janeiro's carnival festivities. This will be her fourth year in attendance, and she returns to Ouagadougou to showcase two Afro-Brazilian films with the support of the Brazilian Embassy.

Over the years, the FESPACO has left a strong cultural impact on Ouagadougou, because it’s a festival for the people. During the week, thousands of locals watch and discuss films in neighborhood open-air cinemas. When filmmaker Barbara Allen attended the festival in 2011 she was told that if a young man in Ouagadougou wants to show a girl that he is respectable, the first place he takes her is to the cinema, the second date you can go to a restaurant, but the cinema is always first, to prove you're worthy.

Check here, for in-depth coverage of the festival.

Below are some the most anticipated films of this year's festival.

Felicité by Alain Gomis (Senegal)

French-Senegalese director Alain Gomis arrives at FESPACO on a professional high—Felicité won the Jury Grand Prix at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. His last film in 2013, Aujourdhui, starred slam poet Saul Williams and Aïssa Maïga and won the Golden Stallion. He hopes to repeat that with Felicité. In this film, the protagonist, Félicité, sings in a bar in Kinshasa. When her 14-year-old son has a motorcycle accident, she goes on a frantic search for him through the streets of Kinshasa and is sucked into a world of music and dreams.

Frontières by Apolline Traoré (Burkina Faso)

Traoré’s first short film, The Price of Ignorance, won the jury prize at FESPACO in 2000. Since then, the Burkinabe has debuted every one of her films and series at the festival, but she's yet to win the Golden Stallion statue. She hopes to change that with her third feature film, Frontiéres, which is about three women who meet while traveling by bus on the Dakar-Bamako-Cotonou route via Ouagadougou to Lagos. The trip is a journey of struggle. Under the grueling sun, in the middle of nowhere, the women endure car breakdowns and encounter road bandits.

The Wedding Ring by Rahmatou Keïta (Zin’naariya!) (Niger)

Niger’s Rahmatou Keïta has been making films for more than 25 years, but The Wedding Ring is only her second feature film. In The Wedding Ring, a young woman has returned to her home in Niger after completing her degree abroad. She is dealing with the pain of a lost love when a spiritual adviser convinces her that she needs a wedding ring.

Fre by Kinfe BANBU (Ethiopia)

West African francophone films usually dominate the FESPACO film lineup, so an Ethiopian film is a treat. The film focuses on the life of a widowed father and his daughter's struggle. After his daughter was raped, the father faces challenges as he tries to save his sexually abused daughter. The film shows how tables can turn in the blink of an eye.

Accra Power by Sandra Krampelhuber (Ghana/Austria)

Sandra Krampelhuber began her fascination with West African mega-cities in Dakar, Senegal. She produced the 2014 documentary 100% Dakar, which is a portrait of the city’s creative arts scene. She returns with Accra Power, a documentary film whose title acknowledges the Ghanaian capital’s dubious relationship with energy. Accra Power provides an eclectic mix of perceptions of power in one of Africa's thriving urban centers. It outlines the creative and artistic strategies of young Ghanaians situated at the crossroads of tradition, various belief systems, technological and economic growth, infrastructural deficits, and the current energy crisis.

L’Orage: Un Continent Sous Influence Africain by Sylvestre Amoussou (Benin)

In 2006, filmmaker Sylvestre Amoussou produced the dystopian film Africa Paradis, in which he imagined how the world would look if African countries had colonized Europe and the Americas instead. He returns with L’Orage: Un Continent Sous Influence Africain, a movie about an imaginary African country that's rich in natural resources, yet facing an economic crisis.

La Promesse by Fatou Touré (Senegal)

The film relates the story of Sophie who tries to build a beautiful universe around her husband Babacar and her two children. On a rather unusual day, betraying their promises, Babacar announces to Sophie that he has taken a second wife. Sophie experiences intense emotional shock and withdraws into total silence.

Kemtiyu Seex Anta by Ousmane William Mbaye (Senegal)

Cheikh Anta Diop has been gone for almost 30 years, and it's taken just as long for someone to deliver a documentary about the legendary Senegalese historian and kemetist. Diop is partly responsible for the renewed interest in the study of black civilizations like Egypt. Before 1950, much research on African civilizations was conducted from a Eurocentric point of view. Diop attempted to change that. This documentary is one of the first films to be financed by a new film fund in Senegal.


Ethiopia's New Cabinet is Made Up of 50 Percent Women

The move is the latest sweeping change made under "reformist" Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's leadership.

In an unprecedented move towards gender inclusion within the Ethiopian government, the country's lawmakers have announced a new cabinet made up by 50 percent women.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who has been described as a reformist, due to landmark changes that have occurred under his leadership—made the announcement on Tuesday. "Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can't lead," he said in Parliament. "This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa."

During the speech he also stated that "women are less corrupt than men," reports BBC Africa.

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Op-Ed: Kanye West In Africa Is Music Marketing At Its Worst

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing.

One of the most interesting parts of the music industry is the marketing of an album. In developed music markets, accomplished professionals and creatives sit in a room and decide how best they want to sell the music. It's the norm. Many people deliberate and develop a roll-out plan that is improved until it's perfect for execution.

When JAY-Z rented out billboards for 4:44, with everyone wondering what it meant around the world, that is marketing. Mr Eazi drawing a towering mural of himself and Giggs in London, was another marketing tactic to push his single "London Town." Falz created an entire movement filled with conventionally attractive men, and named it the 'Sweet Boys Association,' because he had a single that needed to be sold to fans. Perhaps, what takes the cake in the world of African music marketing is one crazy move by a little known Nigerian artist named Skibii. You see, this guy died and rose again from the dead, just like sweet biblical adult Jesus. He had a single somewhere that needed the attention. Death and resurrection was his thing.

Kanye West is in Africa for marketing. The US rap superstar is holed up at the Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, surrounded by his friends, colleagues and family. He is here because he has an album to release named Yandhi, and somehow, he found his way to the Motherland, where's he's built two outdoor domes, as his working studio. He isn't working from inside a house like a mere mortal. He's in the wild, connecting to Mother Nature and nourishing foliage. This is Africa, Kanye West is an African-American. His ancestors came from this part of the world. He has a claim to this soil.

Kanye West was supposed to drop his ninth studio album on Saturday, September 29. After two days of waiting, three Saturday Night Live performances, one tweet from Kim Kardashian-West and an appearance on TMZ Live, Yandhi was pushed back to Black Friday, November 23. West admitted that he "didn't finish" the album in time, and a member of his management staff suggested pushing the release back.

"I started incorporating sounds that you never heard before and pushing and having concepts that people don't talk about," West said. "We have concepts talking about body-shaming and women being looked down upon for how many people that they slept with. It's just a full Ye album and those five albums I dropped earlier were like superhero rehabilitation and now the alien Ye is fully back in mode… We're going to Africa in two weeks to record. I felt this energy when I was in Chicago. I felt the roots. We have to go to what is known as Africa."

In Africa, Kanye West hasn't laid low. Photos from his arrival hit the internet, and somehow, he was filmed listening, dancing and vibing to African music. Those songs include Mystro's "Immediately," and Burna Boy's "Ye." The videos have gone viral, Africans are wowed by Kanye's interaction with their music, reactions and takes, Africa is moved by Kanye West interacting with our music. Somehow, I used to think we are over this type of event. The event where an an American superstar, who has a huge fan base in Africa, dances to our music, and we lose it. But I was wrong. This content format still has power.

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing. His album is about to drop, and he's publicly alerted the world that he needs to be in Africa and its strong cultural influence to complete the project. Everyone is watching, the conversation has global traction, and Africans are supporting him. Since Kanye got heat for his infamous "Slavery was a choice," comment, I knew Africa will become a part of that story. The past week has seen him visit President Donald Trump at the white house, and further moved away from the love of his African-American base in the US. Black people are not behind Kanye West right now. The media is tearing him to shreds. Celebrities are in a social media race to dissociate themselves from him. Many fans aren't proud of their icon. But he is in the Motherland, dancing to its native music, and we can all cheer.

"I'm in Africa recording," he says in a 9 minute video on Twitter about mind control free thinking and his greatness. "We just took them to the future with the dome. The music is the best on the planet. I am the best living recording artist. We, rather, because the spirits flow through me. The spirit of Fela, the spirit of Marley, the spirit of Pac flows through me. We know who the best. We know."

On the surface, Africa appears to be a gimmick. A play by a great artist to expand the story of his album for marketing talking points. Yandhi is already anticipated, and generations after us will study his art and point to this project as the one where Africa played a direct role. This black continent is a marketing tool for Kanye. Son of Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti, has already disassociated Fela Kuti's spirit from Kanye's claims. "On behalf of the Kuti family, I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West," Seun announced on Instagram.

Perhaps marketing isn't Kanye's only reason for his African trip. Maybe, the world is too harsh on Kanye West and his new level of introspective vibrations. Maybe we aren't seeing the bigger picture. Oh gosh! We might all be victims of this grand mind control programme that West talks about! What if Kanye West is on these shores for some actual influence? Africa has a rich spectrum of sounds, laden with enough culture, soul and character to influence any type of music. From Cairo down to Lagos, there's enough music to add colour.

A clear way for justification of his African trip is perhaps for Kanye West to give back. He is connecting to the 'roots' after all. He is soaking in the energy for inspiration. Perhaps he might actually get to work with an African artist while on the continent. Already, Perhaps Africa's contributions to the project will be anchored by an African. Already, in his creative dome, Ugandan producer extraordinaire, Benon Mugumbya, has been pictured. If he gets some of that Yhandi shine, it wouldn't hurt.

Kanye officially has to be the first hip-hop star to make a trip to the continent for direct inspiration since Africa began to hug the spotlight as an interesting market for global music players. Recent years have witnessed the penetration of African music into global pop spaces. Africa has become the new cool. And as her sonic influence grows, more artists would continue to find new ways to interact. Kanye is making a splash with this. Perhaps, he will be the inspiration for more exchange between Africa and Europe.

Perhaps, his music isn't his true reason for this trip. Maybe Ye just wants to get away from the madness from the USA, and go find Wakanda. Maybe he will discover Ye-Kanda. Either way, only the final version of Yhandi will contain the answers that we seek, and Kanye West's true intention. For now, he is already winning. All those marketing points are already helping the project.


Belgium's First Black Mayor Is a Congolese Immigrant

Pierre Kompany, who came to Belgium from the DRC as a refugee in 1975, was elected mayor of a Brussels borough this week.

Pierre Kompany, a Congolese immigrant and father of professional football players Vincent and Francois Kompany, has been elected mayor of the Ganshoren borough in Brussels, BBC reports.

This is a history-making moment, as this victory makes Kompany Belgium's first black mayor.

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