The Khouribga African Film Festival, held in Morocco at the beginning of July, was once again proof that the art of filmmaking in Africa is alive and well. In addition to the 12 competing feature films, workshops and discussions were organised to debate the issues and the realities of the film industry in Africa.
The 15th annual Khouribga African Film Festival (FCAK) took place in Morocco between 30 June and 7 July. Twelve feature films from Senegal, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Angola, the Congo, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and lastly, of course, Morocco itself, all produced during the past year, were officially selected for the Sembène-Ousmane Grand Prize.
In addition to the screenings and the final awards ceremony, the traditional Midnight Sessions were also part of the programme. These are a favourite among film enthusiasts and like a nightcap, they allows artists and participants to share ideas in an informal setting. Networking and brainstorming are in fact key elements of the festival, and alongside the main screenings are a large number of debates, professional networking events, editing and screenwriting workshops as well as a symposium on the outlook of the film industry in Africa.
During this symposium, led by Noureddine Saïl, the director of the Moroccan Cinema Centre, the problem of the shortage of feature film productions was addressed.
Egypt produces around 30 films each year, Morocco 25, South Africa 15, while the rest of the continent combined (outside of Nigeria) produce just 15. By comparison, France produces an average of 250 films every year.
A unanimous call was made for more investment in support of the African film industry, as this market could play a key role in the countries’ development, just as Bollywood has done for India.
For the festival’s closing event, directors, actors, journalists and African film experts all gathered in the cultural centre Khouribga (incidentally, known as the “world’s phosphate capital”) to attend the presentation ceremony of the prizewinning films selected by the jury. Critic and academic Mohamed Dahane presided over the jury, composed of journalist Osange Silou Kieffer (Guadeloupe), as well as actors Noufisa Sbaï (Morocco), Leila Ouaz (Tunisia), Gérard Essomba (Cameroon) and Sidiki Bakaba (Côte d’Ivoire). The ceremony began with a tribute to the late Franco-Senegalese actor Mouss Diouf, who passed away that same day at the age of 47.
They then moved on to announce the award winners. The Sembène-Ousmane Prize, the festival’s most prestigious award, was given to the film Bayiri (The Homeland) directed by Pierre Yaméogo, a feature-length film that deals with the plight of migrants from Burkina Faso in a Côte d’Ivoire that is in the grip of civil war. Forced to flee the country, it is the beginning of a long exile and of suffering and wandering.
By happy coincidence, the award for Best Supporting Actor was given to Yonas Pérou, aged 12 years, for his performance as Thomas in the Gabonese comedy The King’s Necklace, directed by Henri-Joseph Koumba Bididi, while on the same day thousands of kilometres away, the young actor was also awarded the “Performance Screen” for the same role at the Yaoundé Black Screen Festival in Cameroon.
President of the jury, Mohamed Dahane, took this opportunity to underline the vitality of the African film industry, declaring that “all the films presented are of a high artistic quality and reflect a strong film industry in Africa”. The vibrancy of the 2012 festival definitely confirms that assertion.
The Sembène-Ousmane Grand Prize: Bayiri (The Homeland) by Pierre Yaméogo (Burkina Faso)
Jury’s Special Prize: Grey Matter by Kivu Ruhorahoza (Rwanda)
Award for Best Screenplay: Always Brando by Ridha Behi (Tunisia)
Award for Best Direction: Andalusia, My Love by Mohamed Nadif (Morocco)
Award for Best Actress: Sheila Mirra and Ciomara Mora in All is Well by Pocas Pascoal (Angola)
Award for Best Actor: Saul Williams in Today by Alain Gomis (Senegal)
Award for Best Supporting Actress: Marlène Longange in Viva Riva by Djo Tunda wa Munga (Congo)
Award for Best Supporting Actor: Yonas Pérou in The King’s Necklace by Henri Joseph Koumba Bididi (Gabon)
Why Khourigba and where is it?
OCP, Morocco’s leading industrial company and the world’s leading exporter of phosphates was the festival’s patron. So it comes as no surprise that the festival has always taken place in Khouribga, a small city in the middle of Morocco! In addition to providing significant financial support and taking care of accommodation and catering for participants, OCP provided logistical support (shuttles to the various festival sites), and organised a grand closing evening with a banquet and live music.