Tunisian director Youssef Chebbi won the prized Stallion of Yennenga award for his murder mystery work “Ashkal” on Saturday at the biennial pan-African Fespaco film festival.
Chebbi, who was born in Tunis and whose film is about the investigation into the death of a caretaker on a building site on the outskirts of his hometown, did not attend the ceremony in Burkina Faso, which was presided over by military chief Ibrahim Traore.
Chebbi won victorious over Burkinabe rival Apolline Traore, who picked up a consolation Silver Stallion medal for “Sira”, while the bronze went to Kenya’s Angela Wamai for “Shimoni”.
The Stallion of Yennenga (Etalon d’or de Yennenga) is given to the greatest fictional or documentary feature film depicting African realities.
A total of 170 submissions have been chosen for the FESPACO festival in Ouagadougou’s capital, including 15 fiction feature films competing for the Yennenga Golden Stallion award and a prize of roughly $30,000.
Fidele Aymar Tamini, president of the FESPACO organizing committee, stated that the festival’s 28th edition would focus on “African films and peace cultures” in the light of the crisis.
The prime minister of adjacent Mali, the festival’s guest country of honour which is also battling with a brutal jihadist insurgency, said culture had a “avant-garde role to play in the peace process”.
Mali and Burkina Faso are “brother countries” confronted by the “terrorist hydra,” and “our fight for peace and sovereignty remains the priority,” Choguel Kokalla Maiga declared amid ecstatic applause.
On an enormous stage, 60 dancers portrayed warfare to the tune of beating drums in a performance dubbed “20 million VDP,” alluding to a civilian volunteer group that supports the Burkinabe army.
According to the ceremony’s organizer, the choreography was created to highlight the “bravery” of Burkina Faso’s youth in the midst of the terrorist crisis that erupted in Mali in 2015.
Earlier this week, 12 VDP members were slain in an attack in the volatile north, which followed the deaths of at least 70 soldiers in the same region in two separate attacks blamed on jihadists.
Burkina Faso’s unrest has killed over 10,000 people and prompted two million to flee their homes.
Burkinabe Culture and Communications Minister Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo stated that Mali and Burkina Faso, both headed by military juntas who seized power in coups, were on the same path in terms of integration and cooperation.
Apollinaire Kyelem de Tambela, Prime Minister of Mali, recently proposed a West African federation.