SA new look movie genre in Africa
In a comedy screened on Wednesday at Africa’s top film festival, “Duga” premieres, showing vintage moments with elements of mockery as traditional chiefs, religious leaders, surreal bureaucrats, the police, all took a hit as no stone was left unturned with humorous portrayals of the Burkinabe society.
Though unofficially titled “The Scavengers” in English – the film uses a dead body that nobody wants to bury as the propeller for a satire on pen-pushers, hate-mongers, and humbugs.
It is one of 20 feature films vying for the top prize at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco).
“False religious prophets spread fear and hate speech, and this leads to violence,” said Abdoulaye Dao, a Burkinabe director who co-made the film with Herve Eric Lengani.
“Politicians let them get away with it because they know it will get them support. It’s playing with fire. It happens in Burkina, in Mali and everywhere in Africa,” he said, referring to the rise of jihadism.
The film features Rasmane, a retiree who volunteers to do a job nobody wants — that of digging a grave to bury a dead friend.
Touched by the predicament of the man’s widow and daughter, Rasmane wants to lend a helping hand but soon comes up against a group of people who want to exploit the state of affairs for their own gain.
Simultaneously, a young worker finds an abandoned baby in a ridden. He offers to take care of the child, but the authorities prove to be a stumbling block in his way — and even go so far as to accuse him of murdering her mother.
“The two stories run alongside one another and come together at the end,” says Dao, whose 2009 film “An Extraordinary Woman” was well-received at Fespaco.
“Life and death were two moments when communities used to come together, to cry and to heal. Nowadays, this solidarity is crumbling away.”
Damned over the cadaver
But in making the film, the directors encountered one setback after another, Dao revealed.
“The vehicle used in the film for transporting the body broke down all the time and also got stuck in the mud — we had to haul it out with a tractor, which inspired one of the scenes,” he says.
“And when we were filming in the forest, we had to move the equipment several times, just when everything was ready because there were snakes everywhere.
“Then it rained all the time. After a while, we began to wonder whether we were being cursed because of the corpse!”
Fespaco was launched in 1969 and loosely modelled on the Cannes Film Festival and provides a window of opportunity for African movie and TV professionals to interact and pitch their work to clients in North America, Europe and beyond.
The week-long festival opened on Saturday for celebrations marking its 50th anniversary.
The flaxen stallion
Sixteen African countries will show on display 165 documentaries, films and series.
The top prize – the famed “African Oscar” — is the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, dubbed after a mythical 12th-century warrior princess who founded the Mossi Empire.
If “Duga” wins, Dao will be the first Burkinabe filmmaker to lift the award in 20 years, after Gaston Kabore’s “Buud Yam” grabbed the award in 1997.
But a rumored front-runner is the Kenyan film “Rafiki” by Wanuri Kahiu, which was banned in the interim in its home country last year because of its lesbian love theme. Another Burkinabe in the running is Apolline Traore, whose “Desrances” portrays the bravery of women caught in the post-electoral unrest in Ivory Coast in 2010-11.