Burkina Faso film maker recalls golden era of cinema before insurgency

BOBO-DIOULASSO, Burkina Faso (Reuters) – Film producer Drissa Toure peered through the locked glass doors of what was once the lively cinema in Burkina Faso’s southwestern city of Bobo-Dioulasso and remembered a time when locals could enjoy films from Africa and beyond on its screen.

Today the 70-year-old struggles with respiratory illness and ekes out a living ferrying people and parcels on his scooter. He treasures the magazine clippings that lauded his earlier film work and the medals he collected.

Burkina Faso historically has clout in Africa’s film industry, with several feature productions landing international awards over past decades. It has also hosted the renowned bi-annual PanAfrican film festival FESPACO.

However, a jihadist insurgency that has gained ground since 2015 has forced the government to divert money from the arts and culture to security spending. The building is no longer used as a cinema and is instead rented out for conferences and weddings.

FESPACO was suspended this year due to political instability following two coups.

Years ago the excitement at the cinema was palpable in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s cultural capital, where film producers and cinephiles abounded.

Toure’s first long feature “Laada” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991. He was invited back in 1995 for another film, “Haramuya”, set in the capital Ouagadougou.

He recalled a golden era when he met African movie stars and travelled to the United States and was invited to Cannes.

“When the letter came I showed my mother… it was joy” he said. A framed water-stained poster from “Cannes 1995” still hangs on the wall of his modest home.

(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)