The Closing Ceremony

March 28, 2013

The word “Spectacle” was made for this reason: in order to describe the closing ceremony. Growing up in Kenya, the only time there would be this level of pomp and circumstance is in celebration of political heroes during a national holiday where the president is going to show up. But for a group of artists? Ha! No freaking way. The absolute best you could hope for would be to be a guest of honor in the VIP section in thanks for your years of support of the government or something. Let me describe what went down.

Okay, so never mind that we were informed a half hour in advance that we needed to get to the stadium before the President did otherwise we wouldn’t  be allowed in, so after scrambling to shower and look festive, a bus showed up at the hotel with an irate bus driver and off we went. Thankfully my trusty friend Regis (a FESPACO veteran) was there to guide us to exactly the gate we were to go through so we’d end up in the VIP section where the filmmaker should sit. We got in just in time, saw the president come in and managed to squeeze in a seat somewhere beneath his booth.

As with all official ceremonies there were lots of speeches, shout-outs and such, but it was just so amazing to have this all done in the name of honoring Pan African storytellers. Not athletes, not footballers with million-dollar contracts and endorsements, not politicians vying for votes or gloating over recent victories, but artists. Incredible.

The jurors were brought in in horse-led carriages, the president stayed for the entire 4-hour ceremony and greeted all the jurors and gave out the final top-three awards. So about those top three awards: the Etallon de Yennenga. As they ushered in three gorgeous women carrying the bronze, silver and gold statues by horse and carriage, they narrated the story of the Etallon de Yennenga which goes something like this: Yennenga was a warrior princess who led her father’s army to war and was fearless and victorious. This award is in commemoration of her bravery as a keeper of tradition and culture and preserving the lives and dignity of her people. Once they handed out the final award they had a huge light show with the fireworks and then a major press ceremony for the winning filmmaker, which was followed by a whole choreographed dance sequence to live Burkina drummers. I didn’t win an award this time but I felt completely humbled to be counted in this esteemed group of individuals, the carriers or Yennenga’s legacy, a fierce warrior princess. Such a blessing.

Viva Burkina! Viva Fespaco!

PS: and to top it off they announced that starting at the next edition of FESPACO they will finally start accepting feature films shot on HD/Video into the main competition (previously they’ve only considered films shot on 35mm) and they’re doubling the award money from 10 million to 20 million CFA.