Photo: Idrissa Ouedraogo. Credit: IMDB - Photo: 2018

Gifted African Filmmaker Leaves Behind an Impressive Legacy

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – Just days before a major retrospective of his cinematic work in Brazil, Idrissa Ouedraogo passed away in his home country of Burkina Faso on February 18. He was 64.

“We talked two weeks ago,” said a grieving Janaina Oliveira of Brazil’s Center for Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Studies in a Facebook post. “I was bringing him to Brazil. Tickets, screening, tribute…it was all set. He was so happy.”

Ouedraogo was born on January 21, 1954, in Banfora, Burkina Faso. His parents were farmers, and he grew up in a village outside Ouagadougou.

Because of his performance in primary school, he was sent to Ouagadougou to continue his studies. “There, he made sure to reserve enough money each week to buy a ticket for a weekend show at one of the city’s three outdoor cinemas, favoring karate films and Hindi musicals,” writes Neil Genzlinger.

Burkina Faso being a former French protectorate, and its official language French, Ouedraogo continued his education at the Institut d’Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris. He received a degree in film studies at the Sorbonne in 1985.

The prolific Ouedraogo was best known for ‘Tilai’ (‘The Law’), about the violation of familial taboos, a complicated story about a man returning to his village after a long absence, only to find that his father has married his fiancé. Even though she is now officially his mother, they begin an affair, and trouble ensues.

It was one of two films to receive in May 1990 the Grand Prix at the Cannes festival, the event’s second-highest honor after the Golden Palm.

The New York Times recalls: !Films like ‘Tilai’ do more than restore one’s spirit,” Jay Carr wrote in reviewing it in The Boston Globe in 1991, “they restore one’s perspective, reminding us that there’s still such a thing as a self-renewing world cinema, and Ouedraogo – not likely to be invited to a Hollywood power lunch soon – is a major figure in it.”

His later films included ‘Samba Traoré’ (1993), about the aftermath of a botched robbery (the title is a character’s name), and ‘Kini & Adams’ (1997), a story about two friends in Zimbabwe. ‘Samba Traoré’ won a prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and ‘Kini & Adams’ was shown at Cannes.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said in a statement that his country “has lost a filmmaker of immense talent”, noting that the director “truly contributed to turning the spotlight on Burkinabe and African cinema beyond our borders.”

His first film, ‘Yam Daabo’ (‘The Choice,’ in the Mooré language of Burkina Faso in Western Africa), a 1986 release about a family disrupted by famine, followed by ‘Yaaba’ (‘Grandmother’), an unusual love story between a young boy and an elderly woman spurned by her village.

According to the New York Times, when ‘Yam Daabo’ was shown in New York in 1988 as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films festival, Caryn James, in her review in The New York Times, called it “a beautifully composed, emotionally triumphant film” and said that “it brings to our attention a most valuable filmmaker.”

Ouedraogo made several 3-minute films for the series Art for the World, an NGO associated with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) which sees art as an important tool for fostering dialogue among diverse peoples, cultures, and worldviews, encouraging tolerance and solidarity in the defense of human rights.

Art for the World is inspired by Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to take part freely in the cultural life of the community, [and] to enjoy the arts.”

Malian filmmaker Cheick Omar Cissoko, secretary general of the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) commented: “Idrissa has made human stories of such intensity, built around extremely strong characters (…) His writing is a leap forward within African cinema. He was always looking for the best.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 February 2018]

Photo: Idrissa Ouedraogo. Credit: IMDB

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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