Africa’s biggest film festival, initially scheduled to have run in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou in late February, will now take place in October, the government said on Wednesday.
The Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou, known by its acronym in French of FESPACO, is an eagerly-awaited showcase held every two years.
This year’s edition, the 27th in FESPACO’s history, had initially been set for February 27-March 6. It was postponed on January 29 as Burkina braced for the second wave of coronavirus.
Government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura told a press conference on Wednesday that the cabinet had decided to reschedule the festival from October 16-23.
The event will take place with social distancing and other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID, he said.
Culture Minister Elise Thiombiano said 700 people had been invited to the previous FESPACO, a number that would be cut to 150 this year to help reduce infection risk.
Similarly, opening ceremonies will take place in Ouagadougou’s Palais des Sports, a 5,000-seater stadium, instead of the city’s Joseph Conombo municipal stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000.
Founded in 1969, FESPACO stipulates that films chosen for competition have to be made by Africans and predominantly produced in Africa.
Its top prize is the coveted Golden Stallion of Yennenga, a beast in Burkinabe mythology.
The internationally-respected festival is closely followed by the US and European movie industries, which scout the event for new films, talent and ideas.
“At present, we have recorded 900 films from 28 countries, including 71 films for Burkina Faso,” said Thiombiano.
The event, costing more than two billion CFA francs ($3.6 million dollars / three million euros), is taking place this year under the slogan “African Cinema and the Diaspora: New Talents, new Challenges,” with Senegal as the country of honour.
Burkina Faso has so far recorded 12,845 COVID-19 cases, of which 150 have been fatal.
The festival is one of the few internationally recognised bright spots in a country that is one of the poorest in the world and a victim of the Sahel’s bloody jihadist insurgency.
More than 1,200 people have been killed since 2015 and more than a million have fled their homes.