by Sherif Awad
In last week’s article, I explained how the three presidents of juries, including myself, spent the period of the 7th FESTICAB Festival in Bujumbura at the confines of our hotel after the country went in chaos once the current president announced his run for a third term. From the 24th till the 30th of April, our only choice was to relax near the lake, eat tasty fish, enjoy the view and watch the competing films on our laptops inside our rooms. Each jury comprised an international cineaste in addition to two Burundi filmmakers who ultimately visited us on the last day to discuss and finalize the awards.
One good discovery was made among the competing short films in the form of the 30 minute narrative Djibada by writer-director Mhô Diaby, born in 1974 at Gagnoa, Ivory Coast. Diaby studied at l’Institut Professionnel du Cinéma et de l’Audio-visuel (IPCA) and, after moving from various professional experiences in the world of photography, computer graphics, publishing and finance, finally became a filmmaker with this interesting debut.
Djibada has a main character called Richard Angouéné, played by Kane Mahoula, who is a painter seeking inspiration and so he turns his heart and soul to the tomb of the mysterious goddess Djibada that might have a cure to his mysterious stagnation. One day, while he is praying, Richard is visited by a beautiful priestess in white (Aicha Sangaré) who is accompanied by a young lady called Ayana (Christelle Tiémoko) who also came to the tomb to sacrifice a bird to Djibada. When Ayana asks Richard for a knife to make the sacrifice, the painter invites her to his cabin where she discovers his unfinished paintings. Their conversation took them a long time until the darkness falls so Richard invites Ayana to spend the night home and also promised to provide her some money when the day breaks. While Ayana sleeps on the couch, Richard is suddenly driven to finish one of his canvases yet in great pain. The following day, while he is totally exhausted, Ayana reveals her true identity: she is the goddess Djibada who responded to his prayers. In the final scenes, Richard becomes a renowned artist who scores a great success with his first solo exhibition.
What is very captivating in this directorial debut is the simplicity of constructing a story about the creativity of an African contemporary artist and its correlation with the mystique of African old heritage and legends. The short film Djibada was obviously realized with a minimal budget and few crew members, yet the director has succeeded to extract good performances from the three leads. The soundtrack, consisting of ritualistic African corals, was an additional element adding to the surreal settings of the story.
The other winning film at FESTICAB this year was the Burkina Faso drama Eye of the Storm by writer-director Sékou Traoré. Set in an unnamed African country, the film stars Fragass Assandé as Blackshouam, a rebel accused of war crimes who is being defended by idealistic lawyer Emma Tou, played by Maïmouna N’Diaye. The two leads won Best Actor Trophies last March at the 24th edition of FESPACO, the leading African film and television festival in Burkina Faso.
Director Traoré had a colorful filmography. After winning Best Documentary Award at FESPACO 1997 for Ishmael, An Example Of Courage, he kept on working as production manager with other acclaimed African filmmakers like Mahammat Salé Haroun from Chad and Abderrahman Sissako from Mauritania. With Eye of the Storm, Traoré returned to the director’s seat to tell a vivid African story of a child soldier who was kidnapped at the age of eight to become a killing machine. Arrested by the army of his country when he became a middle-aged man, the regime decides to offer him a trial in order to show that his country is in the process of democratization. But actually, the trial is just a pretext to bury him with his secrets. However, the country’s regime is surprised by the commitment of the lawyer to give this man a fare trial. The film is not only dealing with the issue of child soldiers, which was recently approached in the Oscar-nominated Canadian film War Witch (2012) and the Guinea-Bissau co-production The Children’s Republic (2012) starring Danner Glover, but also shows other endeavors faced by young people like drug addiction, brainwashing and trauma. To give a film a pan-African impact, the director created a fictitious African country with an imaginary flag then shot it across Yaoundé in Cameroon, and Ouagadougou, Bobo and Banfora in Burkina Faso, Although it echoes many realistic events that occurred in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
On the last day of FESTICAB 2015, after the juries delivered the awards to the organizers, we had the chance of having lunch in a small restaurant near the suburbs of the city. Most of the shops were shutdown and barricades were posted between entries and exits of some alleys. The following day, my worries about problems that may occur in the flights luckily never happened. I came back to Egypt to work on the next edition Alexandria Festival, due next Septemeber.