FESPACO 2023: Watch the Opening Ceremony for Africa’s Largest Film Festival

The 28th edition of Festival Pan-Africain du Cinéma et de la television de Ouagadougou, otherwise known as FESPACO (Pan-African Film & TV Festival of Ouagadougou) kicked off celebrations today, February 25, 2023, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

This year’s edition of the bi-annual event is a specifical one, coinciding with the centenary of the birth of Ousmane Sembène, one of the most celebrated African filmmakers in the world, as well as the 50th anniversary of fellow African cinema pioneer Djibril Diop Mambéty’s seminal 1973 film TOUKI BOUKI.

The theme for this year’s festival, which has sometimes been referred to as the “African Cannes” (an indication of the aspirations that have been projected onto it), is “African Cinema and Culture of Peace.” It’s visually represented in an illustrated version of Sarraouina — a Hausa chief/priestess who fought French colonial troops in the Battle of Lougou (in present-day Niger) in 1899. Sarraouinia inspired Med Hondo’s 1986 film, based on the novel of the same name by Nigerien writer Abdoulaye Mamani.

FESPACO 2023 Sarraouinia
FESPACO 2023 Sarraouinia

The film won FESPACO’s grand prize, the Etalon de Yennenga, in 1987 (presented by Burkinabé revolutionary Thomas Sankara a few months before he was assassinated).

And in 2010, FESPACO instituted the Sarraouinia Prize to recognize and celebrate what it refers to as the “Amazons of the seventh African art.”

Per FESPACO, the Sarraouinia poster highlights:

– A female fighter with her warrior attributes at a time when Defence and Security Forces and Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland must be brought to the limelight, to honor their sacrifice, courage, and patriotic commitment.

– A woman with a clenched fist, determined and committed to social change, fighting against intolerance, social misbehavior, violence, insecurity, and terrorism that undermine any effort for the harmonious development of our motherland and well-being.

– A symbol of African pride, resistance, and resilience that has made its way into African textbooks.

In short, the visual of the 28th edition of FESPACO pays tribute to all those “queens from Africa and worldwide” who, through their self-sacrifice, conviction, and perseverance, have contributed to defending culture and maintaining peace.

It certainly speaks to present-day realities as one of Africa’s oldest film festivals, founded in 1969, launches in spite of the new threat of terrorism in the Sahel. And even if only as an act of defiance, this likely helps place the country’s own Apolline Traoré’s fifth feature, SIRA — a feminist take on the conflict in the Sahel — which is screening in competition, at the front of the race for the festival’s top honor, the Étalon d’or de Yennenga (Golden Stallion of Yennenga, or abbreviated as Golden Stallion). Other awards include the Oumarou Ganda Prize, given to the best first film, and the Paul Robeson Prize for the best film by a director of the African diaspora.

FESPACO 2023 runs from February 25 to March 4.

Courtesy of Burkina’s own Faso7 TV, watch the full 90-minute opening ceremony below.