Thursday, 2 April 2009

Ouédraogo was honoured with the M-Net Lifetime Achievement Award at the Capewinelands Film Festival

Say the name Steven Spielberg and most film fans will immediately know who you're talking about. But say Idrissa Ouédraogo and you'll get a quizzical "come again?" Ouédraogo is one of the featured filmmakers at this year's Cape Winelands film festival as well as the recipient of their M-Net lifetime achievement award. By Theresa Smith from 
He established his international reputation when he won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his epic Tilaï in 1990 and has gone on to make several award-winning documentaries, features and television programmes.
Ouédraogo studied at the film institute in Burkina Faso, West Africa, for three years before being accepted to what was then the Institut de Haute Etude Cinematography in Paris (today the state film school is known as La Fémis) in the 1970s.
He lived and worked in Paris for 25 years, but returned to Burkina Faso four years ago. The 55-year-old laments the dearth of film schools on the African continent, saying organisations and governments need to see training as a priority.
"Cinema is an artform, but it is also technical. The techniques and the art should come together and open the way to the economy, because cinema is also economics," explained Ouédraogo. "The theatre screens are changing. Now the theatre has become the small screen. That is the medium that creates proximity to people."
For him filmmaking is a form of expression. "It's a bit pretentious, but we think we can bring something to the table and there's also the fact that Africa is perceived as famine-ridden and war-like, but we know Africa is also beautiful.
"We have that need to say that Africa is a place of human people just like other people in the world. There's joy, love and violence, just like everywhere in the world. Filmmakers can change how people view Africa, every story we tell has our philosophy in it," said Ouédraogo.
Not only has he made a film in South Africa, but Abdullah Ibrahim contributed to the Tilaï's music. Ouédraogo was here in 1997 to make a film in Zimbabwe with a mainly South African cast.
"I had the conscious awareness of that weight we should pull together as Africans, but I was disappointed at that time that we didn't think alike. I had the impression black people were feeling they were superior because of the [country's] infrastructure. That's why Mike's (Michael Dearham, M-Net's head of the African Film Library and Sales) initiative is a good thing. It's a way for people here to better know other people, their brothers who have always been with them, whom they have forgotten," said Ouédraogo.
The African Film Library initiative is a calculated strategy on the part of M-Net to increase its subscriber base.
But while Ouédraogo is happy with the initiative, some of his fellow filmmakers aren't too keen, complaining they suddenly don't have access to African classics.
Dearham said content is required to do that and already they distribute through three channels.
M-Net sells to African public broadcasters and DVDs are supposed through NuMetro. Providing specific films for film festivals and educational institutions is also part of the brief.
"We are the one-stop shop for festivals," said Dearham.
He's seen hundreds, even thousands of films, but has distilled a library of about 500 films from all over the Africa and has found films from the African diaspora.
M-Net also owns about 200 of the local classics and that includes the likes of Manie van Rensburg, Jans Rautenbach and Dirk de Villiers.

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