Fespaco: Tunisia Thriller Ashkal Takes Top Film Prize

A first-time solo feature film director has won one of cinema’s top awards.

A representative for Youssef Chebbi, 38, said the filmmaker was “grateful for the trophy” at Fespaco in Burkina Faso, awarded for the murder mystery Ashkal, set in his native Tunisia.

The film sees a male-female police duo unravel a dark and puzzling case in the Gardens of Carthage.

Started in 1969 and now in its 28th edition, the biennial event was this time watched over by military rulers.

Burkina Faso has been under junta control for just over a year and the Fespaco film festival happens only once every two years. So photos from Saturday’s ceremony show military men with red berets and machine guns alongside Africa’s artistic elite.

Chebbi himself did not attend the award ceremony. It is not known if this was an act of conscientious objection to Burkina Faso’s current political situation.

But the man who collected the prize on Chebbi’s behalf from soldier-turned-President Ibrahim Traoré, said that winning the Etalon d’or du Yennenga – as the top award is known – “means a lot” to Chebbi.

The festival attracts thousands from across the continent with filmmakers from Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, South Africa and more taking part this year. Nearly half of all entries in the fiction category were directed by women.

Sira, the tale of a woman’s struggle for survival after being kidnapped by jihadis in the Sahel, won Burkinabè director Apolline Traoré second place in the fiction category.

And third place went to Kenya’s Angela Wanjiku Wamai for Shimoni.

In her closing remarks at Saturday’s awards ceremony, Fespaco jury head and producer Dora Bouchoucha, made apparent reference to racist remarks by Tunisia’s president about sub-Saharan Africans changing his country’s demographics as part of “plot” by foreign powers.

“I am deeply sad and at the same time grateful my actions in terms of promoting African cinema are recognised in Burkina Faso,” said Ms Bouchoucha.

Source : BBC

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