“Desrances”, movie of a family trapped in Ivory Coast conflict premiers at FESPACO

“Desrances” is in competition with 19 other full-length movies for the so-called “African Oscar”
An armed policeman walks through the lobby of a movie hall in Ouagadougou on February 25, 2019, during The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou ( FESPACO). – Africa’s biggest film festival is marking its 50th anniversary, buoyed by its contributions to the continent’s cinema industry but overshadowed by security concerns in host country Burkina Faso. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

A new film set during the 2010-11 post-election violence in Ivory Coast and centred around the courage of a 12-year-old girl, premiered Tuesday at Fespaco, Africa’s biggest film festival, in Burkina Faso.

“Desrances” was written and directed by Burkinabe film-maker Apolline Traore, whose 2017 film “Frontieres” also featured at Fespaco.

Her latest offering focuses on the courage and wisdom of women in the face of men’s folly.

The film’s title refers to the character Francis Desrances played by Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, perhaps best known for his role in the hit television series “Heroes” (as The Haitian).

In the film, Desrances is desperately looking for his wife and their newborn son, whom he fears were abducted by gangsters during the violence in Abidjan.

But the real hero of the film is his daughter Haila, played by Ivorian Jemima Naomi Nemlin. She saves her father’s life and makes him see that she is as worthy of being his heir as her brother.

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“The film highlights the story of a girl who has a lot of strength, at least as much as a boy,” actor Jean-Louis said after the film’s screening in Ouagadougou.

“There are a lot of barriers against women in society, things that hinder their progress. It’s men who have always led (society), and the result has not been great,” he added.

“The future is in the hands of women!”

‘Afro-Optimist’

Traore, 43, became known internationally two years ago with “Frontieres” (Borders), which picked up a special award at the 2017 Fespaco festival.

But with her new film, she hopes to become the first woman to win the festival’s top prize.

David Kessler, director of Orange Studio which co-produced “Desrances”, told AFP that young African directors today “are real pros”.

“I am very optimistic about the emergence of new talents” in African cinema, he added.

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Kessler also pointed to “a huge appetite for local content”.

“The public is demanding films and series made locally that speak to their everyday life, in Senegal or Ivory Coast for example.”

Jean-Louis was equally positive about African film-making.

“From a cinematographic point of view, all our stories are still to be told, our heroes, our ancestors, our cultures, all our languages.

“The world does not know Africa through cinema. A few films have been made by others about us, but we have never really given our version of Africa,” he added.

“I am super Afro-optimist!”

“Desrances” is in competition with 19 other full-length movies for the so-called “African Oscar” — the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, named after a mythical 12th-century warrior princess who founded the Mossi empire.

Fespaco — the acronym in French of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou — takes place in the capital of Burkina Faso every two years.

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Launched in 1969 and loosely modelled on the Cannes Film Festival, it provides an opportunity for African movie and TV professionals to network and pitch their work to clients in Europe, North America, and beyond.

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