- The South African film "Drum", directed by Zola Maseko, has won the Golden Stallion of Yennenga award at the pan-African Fespaco film festival in Burkina Faso. The film, set in Johannesburg townships of the 1950s, is the first South African movie to win this top African award.
South African filmmaker Zola Maseko this weekend had reason to celebrate his first major international film award. The Golden Stallion of Yennenga, which is handed out by an international jury every second year in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, is the most prestigious African film award. "Drum" faced hard competition from 19 other shortlisted African films, spanning from the entire continent.
Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako - the winner of the last Fespaco top award in 2003 - handed the trophy over to Mr Maseko at a ceremony at the Ouagadougou stadium. Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré also honoured the South African film director with his presence and personal congratulations.
"Drum" was among the favourites to this year's Fespaco top award, although the festival - the 19th in line - usually is very dominated by Francophone films and directors. It is only the second time an English language film wins the award, and it is the first time a South African filmmaker goes right to the top.
South Africa nevertheless had a strong presence at this year's Fespaco festival, with four out of twenty shortlisted movies competing for the Stallion of Yennanga. South Africa has had a fantastic cinema season this year, with "U-Carmen" winning Europe's most prestigious film award - the Golden Bear - in Berlin last month and with "Yesterday" being nominated as Best Foreign Language film in Hollywood's Oscar awards.
"Drum" is a much celebrated film in South Africa. It takes viewers back to the toughest part of apartheid era, a Johannesburg township in the 1950s, were a hard-drinking journalist struggles against the unjust regime. Scenes from township jazz clubs and bars dominate the film.
Films from all parts of the African continent were however also honoured at this weekend's Yennanga awards ceremony in Ouagadougou. The silver stallion went to a daring Moroccan production, "La Chambre Noire" by director Hassan Benjelloum. The film describes the terrible human rights violations in Morocco during the 1970s in a surprisingly open way.
Also the home audience was satisfied by the jury, handing out the bronze stallion to Burkinabe director Kollo Sanou for the comedy "Tasuma Le Feu". The film describes how an old Burkinabe is struggling to get a French pension after having fought in General Charles de Gaulle's forces during World War II.
A large list of awards was handed out by the international Fespaco jury and other funds, including awards for best TV production, short films and children films. Burkina Faso producers as always received a large part of the awards, while producers from West and North Africa also saw their part of the honouring.
The award ceremony coincided with the closing of the eight-day Fespaco festival. In his closing speech, the general delegate of the FESPACO, Hama Baba, urged all cinema actors and directors of the world to join Fespaco's 20th edition which will be held in Ouagadougou from 24 February to 3 March 2007.
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