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date: 28 February 2020

Burkina Faso, film in

A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell

Burkina Faso, film in 

Under French colonial rule a number of educational documentaries were made in the West African state of Upper Volta, focusing on literacy, health, and civic instruction. After independence in 1960 state-commissioned films such as Espoir d'une nation/The Hope of a Nation (1961), which celebrated independence, were used to unite Burkina Faso's heterogeneous population. The first Festival Panafricaine des Cineastes (FESPACO) was held in Ouagadougou in 1969 and Burkina Faso's exhibition sector was nationalized in 1970, with a 10 per cent tax levied on admissions to subsidize film production. In 1976 the government established Africa's first film school, the Institut Africain d'Education Cinématographique (INAFEC) and a national film directorate to encourage film production. This commitment to establishing a viable film culture resulted in the production of the first domestic feature film, Le sang des parias/The Blood of the Pariahs (1972), shot on 16 mm and directed by Djim Mamadou Kola. However, it was not until 1983 that Burkina Faso's best-known filmmaker, Gaston Kaboré, directed the country's first 35 mm feature film, Wend Kuuni/Gift of God. Set in a precolonial past and based on Sundiata legend, the film belongs to a cycle of pan-African, postcolonial films that sought to use the cinema as a tool of consciousness-raising and to redeem African culture and history from decades of colonial repression and enforced amnesia.

Through the 1980s film production became largely an arm of government policy. For example, Yam daabo/The Choice (Idrissa Ouedraogo, 1987) tells the story of a family who refuse international aid and instead successfully cultivate a barren piece of land; the film identifies a pressing social issue but also describes how state policy will provide a solution. In the 1990s, and with greater political freedom, filmmakers have focused on corruption as a key problem: Pierre Yameogo's Silmandé-Tourbillon (1998), for example, examines the problem of bribery in the awarding of national rice contracts. Danny Kouyaté's KeïtaL'Héritage du griot/ Keïta—Voice of the Griot (1994) illustrates another key theme in Burkinabe cinema—the struggle to reconcile the traditional and the modern: the film shows the conflicts between an oral storytelling tradition and the modern education system, finally seeking a compromise between the two. Another key figure is female director, Fanta Régina Nacro, whose short films examine, often in a comic manner, women's subjugation in African society. Nacro's first feature film, La nuit de la vérité/The Night of Truth (2004), is a dark and serious allegorical reflection on the genocide in Rwanda, told from a female perspective. From the mid 1990s attempts to adhere to World Bank and International Monetary Fund directives have resulted in a devaluation of the local currency, and the cost of cinemagoing is now beyond the means of most of the population. The resulting widespread drop in attendances, combined with fraud and corruption, has hindered the government's ability to fund film production, with state-financed projects falling from around sixteen films per year between 1982 and 1994 to only three to four films per year between 1995 and 2004. In general, films made by Burkinabe directors, many of whom are based in Paris, are produced solely for the international art house circuit. One exception to this, however, is the filmmaker Boubacar Diallo, who has had some success with low-budget commercial films, including the police thriller, Traque à Ouaga/Ouaga Chase (2003), an African-style western, L'or de younga (2006) and the crime comedy, Sam le caïd/Sam, the Boss (2008). Burkina Faso nonetheless remains an important centre for African filmmaking, especially through the continued success of FESPACO (which now runs biennially in alternate years to the Carthage Film Festival for Arabic and African Cinema in Tunisia) and the setting up of two new training facilities—a private film school headed by Gaston Kaboré and the state-funded Institut Régional de l'Image et du Son (IRIS). See postcolonialism; small nation cinemas; sub-saharan africa, film in.

Further Reading:

Jorholt, Eva ‘Burkina Faso’, in Mette Hjort and Duncan J. Petrie (eds.), The Cinema of Small Nations 198–212, (2007).Find this resource:

Turegano, Teresa de African Cinema and Europe: Close-up on Burkina Faso (2004).Find this resource: