THE FESPACO FESTIVAL- A CLASSIC UNIQUENESS

Its first official edition also known as « First African Film Festival of Ouagadougou » took place in its land of origin (Ouagadougou)  from February 1st – February 15th 1969...
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The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou or FESPACO) is a festival that was created in the year 1969 in Ouagadougou through a wonderful initiative of a cinephiles group , including François Bassolet, Claude Prieux ( Director of the Franco-Voltaïque Cultural Center) and Alimata Salembéré who became first president from 1969 to 1970. At the time, the country lacked Cinematographic structures and the super active population did not have access to the increasingly numerous African productions. The founders of this festival wanted to give the audience more access to African movies. This festival  accepts for competition, only films by African filmmakers and mainly  produced in Africa. FESPACO is scheduled in March every second year, two weeks after the last Saturday of February. This uniquely African festival, enables contact and exchange between film and audiovisual experts in Africa and it also contributes immensely to the expansion and development of African cinema as a way to promote Education, Raise awareness ,and to promote expression.

Its first official edition also known as « First African Film Festival of Ouagadougou » took place in its land of origin (Ouagadougou)  from February 1st – February 15th 1969. During this festival, five countries were selected which are ; Senegal, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta ( today known as Burkina Faso), Niger and Cameroon.  France and the Netherlands were additional, and 24 movies were shown , including 18 movies from Africa that were shown and around 10,000 spectators participated. During its 2nd edition, which took place in 1970, the selected number of countries increased to nine which involved ; Algeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali. In this edition, 40 movies were screened and about 20,000 guests attended the event. The year 1972 marks a historical and important date for the festival for this year, the state of Ouagadougou legitimized the festival and it was under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Communication. During this third edition, the festival was renamed to « Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou » (FESPACO). During this same year,a price was created and named after the princess Yennenga(one of the founding figures of the Mossi Empire) which was called «Étalon de Yennenga » . The next festival editions successfully run through the years of 1973 and 1976. It could not take place  in the year 1975 due to the war between Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) and Mali. During the 1980s, the televison aided alot in the distribution and cooperation of cinematographic productions and due to this, the name of the festival was changed again to « Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou ». During the presidential reign of Thomas Sankara (1983-1987) , the festival really took off internationally. As the festival got international, the « Paul Robseon award » was created.

The African cinema is elevated through the publications of the Fespaco catalogues like : FESPACO news, FESPACO newsletter, and a careful preservation of an African Library which archives movies, and has a data bank.The Fespaco also encourages non-profi screenings in rural areas, schools and in private or public institutions with a great help and cooperation from non-governmental organizations or associations. FESPACO usually organizes several film events such as ‘film week’ and ‘film premieres’ and it elevates African cinema in other International festivals.

The General Delegates  of FESPACO since 1972, have been Louis Tombiano, from 1972 to 1982; Alimata Salembere, from 1982 to 1984; Filippe Savadogo, from 1984 to 1996, Baba Hama, from 1996 to 2008, Michel Ouedraogo, from 2008 to 2014, Ardiouma Soma, from 2014 to 2020, and Alex Moussa Sawadogo, from 2020 until present day.

Till present date, though there are some dire straits, FESPACO still holds its place of the main showcase for filmakers from the Continent of Africa. FESPACO has been and is still one of the best things that has happened to Africa. The FESPACO 28th edition took place this year from February 25th to March 04th 2023 so the next edition of the FESPACO which  will be the 29th edition will take place  in 2025.

Delia Nyadi

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