Africa’s top film festival tackles continent’s troubles

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OUAGADOUGOU – Africa’s biggest film festival hands out its top award today after a week of viewing works tackling some of the continents pressing issues against the backdrop of the Arab world uprisings. The inclusion of two films from Egypt, among 18 standing for the Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) grand prize, has new relevance after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in the pro-democracy revolt. Entries from Algeria and Morocco, touched by the uprisings, are also in the running for the golden Stallion of Yennenga, alongside a strong showing from West Africa, with Mozambique and South Africa featuring too.
The “movement beginning to show itself in the Arab world … is the logical consequence of the positive influence of images of the great democracies on people,” commented Ardiouma Soma, head of selection for the festival. In all 111 films – in and out of competition – were selected to be shown during FESPACO which opened in the Burkina Faso capital on February 22 to a crowd of about 25,000 people. Cinema giant Egypt returned to the top category for the first time in 15 years, although the presence at the festival of its selected filmmakers was thrown in doubt by the revolution.
The Egyptian entries are Yousry Nasrallah’s ‘Raconte Sherazade… raconte,’ which criticises censorship, and ‘The Wedding’ from Sameh Abdel Aziz which explores issues including the impact of the financial crisis. Also vying for the top prize are ‘Essaha’ by Algerian Dahmane Ouzid and ‘La mosquee’ by Moroccan Daoud Aoulad Syad, which both question the place of Islam in modern society. Benin entry ‘Un pas en avant, les dessous de la corruption’ tackles the misappropriation of international aid. Another listing, ‘Notre etrang