19TH PAN-AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL OF OUAGADOUGOU (FESPACO) February 26-March 5, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. www.fespaco.bf Rating: NNNNN
Ouagadougou - Say wogga doo-Goo. Feels good, doesn't it? Even better, just call it Ouaga.
The capital of this landlocked, dry-as-hell West African country is a laid-back place. Even when the pomp and protocol of the largest film festival in the African world descends on this town you can still find big shots pulling up to hole-in-the-wall restaurants for a Brakina beer and a flaming hot meat skewer.
Burkina Faso is a small country, and officially one of the poorest in the world. But poverty is relative. The new missionary from Vermont I met here last week was horrified by "the need" and "the superstition." Sounds like an NGO needs to send Vermont some education workers.
That's the reason for FESPACO. Over seven days, Ouagadougou attracts all sorts to its crucial wellspring of African perspectives on Africa. Opening night happens in a packed soccer stadium. On the dusty red path from the cinemas to the Hàtel Indépendance, you can find deal-making South Africans, red-faced Frenchmen and armies of Burkinabe women cruising by on their mopeds.
Well-known pan-Africanist Danny Glover is on the jury. Even the King of Morocco came to town this week with his sprawling entourage, which meant I got bounced from my hotel room.
Royalty and raggamuffins congregate in Ouaga because of a faith in African movies. Or a superstition. We believe that watching these images, whether in air conditioned halls or under the stars at outdoor cinemas, can transform the soul.
And sometimes it happens. Dani Kouyaté 's new film, Ouaga Saga , conjures up a half-magic portrait of enterprising street kids. The mix of locals and foreigners in the audience comes together in communion, watching the streets we've come from just outside the movie house.
U-Carmen E Khayelitsha , the South African version of Bizet's Carmen, returns to Africa this week after winning top prize at the Berlin festival. In both its concept and its success it's a lesson in honouring ancestors.
Then there's Ismael Ferroukhi 's Le Grand Voyage . It's an intimate epic about a French Arab forced by his father to drive all the way from France to Mecca for the Muslim hajj. Not only is this film gorgeous, but it's also by a Moroccan, which oughta do the king proud. email@example.com