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Farai Sevenzo


I have never been to Ougadougou, but two of my films have been here without me on a couple of ocassions.

When the call came through to cover the Festival for the BBC, I leapt at the chance. What better way to catch up with the goings on in African cinema?

Farai Sevenzo
Farai Sevenzo

For over 15 years I have been meeting the same big names in African cinema at Film festivals.

From Algiers to Zanzibar, from London to Tokyo - a rare breed of artists who spend their lives in a labour of love.

Making moving images about Africa and their respective countries, exploring the universal themes of love, life and death from Dakar to Bamako to Ouga to Addis to Algiers.

Spot the black man


Sembene, Sissako, Ouedraogo, Mambete - their films have made it possible to want to follow Africa on the big screen.

Why do African filmmakers do this?

We all love cinema as an art form, and if you live in Europe as I do, you would be forgiven for thinking that Africa does not exist when you examine the moving images we are bombarded with, from televison to the movie theatres.

It is possible to watch British television for several hours and play "spot the blackman".

Sooner or later an episode of the "Simpsons" cartoon will flicker on your tv set with the image of the Indian shopkeeper to fill up your qouta of dark faces for the evening.

It is possible to watch British television for several hours and play "spot the blackman"
Farai Sevenzo

Fespaco and the festivals that exist in its wake are a chance to see new imaginations from the continent at work.

There are love stories here, horror stories, plus reflective, poetic imagery twinned to beautiful music which would be hard to see anywhere else.

Satirical pieces on the nature of dictatorship and lots more.

A marriage of convenience


In this 19th edition of Fespaco, African filmakers will grapple with the same issues - where to from here?

How do they get more people to watch their films? Will they embrace new video technology and slash the prohibitive costs of making movies on film?

And in the wake of "Hotel Rwanda" and "Drum", two films made with substantial Holywood money, is a marriage of convenience with the money men and women in the USA inevitable?

Will such a marriage make African cinema accessible to a worldwide audience at the expense of an African audience?

And when many cinemas from Harare to Libreville have been converted into churches, where will the filmmakers show their films?

Film magic


Some of the filmmakers will not be here to try and sort out these huge issues. They will, instead, have their eye on the prize of "the next film."

Danny Glover
Hollywood star Danny Glover is one of the judges

In the relaxed and holiday atmosphere of the Hotel Independence, filmmakers are trying to catch the ear of potential producers and distributors with informal pitches of their next plots and screenplays.

The Berlin Film Festival is here, as is a host of African American interests, Danny Glover of "Lethal Weapon" fame arrives as a superstar and a potential partner in the next big thing.

In this setting, a beer could be more than just a beer with the right person.

Arriving here for the first time, I am already joining the filmmakers in booking appointments to pitch that story about flying angels I have always wanted to

And when Ouaga is over, I hope to have more than some dodgy business cards in my pockets.

Even the phrase "this needs a re-write" would be music to my ears.
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