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7/18/2018 at 3:46:22 AM GMT
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FESPACO@50-Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Africa’s Most Important Film Festival and Cultural Event

Five decades ago, many of the founding figures of African cinema found themselves carrying their first films under their arms, unable to screen them in movie theaters across their newly independent countries. These screens were literally ‘occupied’ by the more powerful film industries of Hollywood, Europe and to some extent Bollywood. The filmmakers banded together and set out to create ‘liberated zones’ for African cinema, first in Carthage in 1966 and later in Ouagadougou in 1969.

The year 2019 will mark the golden jubilee or fiftieth (50th) anniversary of the founding of the festival that will later become the Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the most important film and cultural event on the African continent.  Over the years, the festival has, in addition to being a genuinely indispensable biennial exhibition space, become a locus classicus of artistic and cultural legitimation; a place for the encounter between filmmakers and their audiences; an inspiring lighthouse for cinephilia in Africa; a space for the reinvention of the world according to a principle of proximity irreducible to the play of geopolitics. Indeed, FESPACO is nothing short of a unique laboratory of ideas, where the cultural, the political, the economic and the social find unique modes of mutual articulation, and partake in the production of thought and affects about the place of Africa in the world, the ways she sees herself and wishes to project herself. Nevertheless, it is also traversed by the pressures of its times, from the lingering residuals of the neocolonial, to the postcolonial and global and indeed the emerging post-global. Its continued existence alone may be said to embody the sense of perennity of African cinema as a project, inspiring one of Ousmane Sembene’s most memorable quotes “We begot FESPACO. Now it is FESPACO that carries us forward.”  

In an effort to evaluate this major institution, celebrate its uncommon journey and critically examine the festival’s successes and limitations, this panel will thus consist in a series of gestures involving retrospection, stocktaking and prospection in view of examining, inter alia, the evolving identities of the festival, its role in shaping the destiny of African cinema, its standing relative to the global sphere of film festivals, and, indeed, its place in the emerging field of film festival studies.

Proposals are thus sought that might include the following issues:


1.      FESPACO as the home of African cinema (is it still the home of African cinema?)

2.      FESPACO between continentalism and Pan Africanism

3.      FESPACO as a mecca of African cinephilia

4.      FESPACO and the diasporic: the place of African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-European cinemas at FESPACO.

5.      FESPACO and the language question: Multilingualism or the legacy of colonial linguistic divide? (Francophones, Anglophones. Lusophones, Arabophones and Africaphones).  

6.      FESPACO and the politics of gender

7.      FESPACO and 20th century history: decolonization; the Cold War; the challenges of post-independent Africa; globalization; apartheid; etc. 

8.      FESPACO and host country politics



1.      FESPACO as a “factory” of auteurism in Africa cinema: what kind of auteurism for African cinema? Has FESPACO helped push the boundaries of auteurism, redefined auteurism?

2.      The status of popular cinema at FESPACO: Nollywood and its progenies at FESPACO

3.      The politics of programming at FESPACO.

4.      FESPACO and the political economy of African cinema

5.      Awards and prizes at FESPACO and the afterlives of African films

6.      FESPACO and the emergence and strengthening of national cinemas in Africa

7.      The status of television at FESPACO

8.      The status of video at FESPACO




1.      FESPACO in the ecology of African film festivals

2.      FESPACO in the global ecology of film festivals (A list film festivals Cannes, Berlinale, Venice, Toronto, etc.)

3.      FESPACO as event and the event-ness of FESPACO

4.      FESPACO in the political economy of world cinema

5.      FESPACO and film markets

6.      FESPACO in the age of new and digital technologies and social media: challenges and opportunities?

7.      FESPACO and the world of streaming.  

Please submit a 200 word abstract, 5 bibliographic sources, 5 keywords, a short professional biography to aboubakar.sanogo@carleton.ca  by August 10, 2018.


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