Nigerian director wins Africa's top film prize

Nigerian director Newton Aduaka lifted the top prize at Africa’s most prestigious film festival for Ezra, the tale of a child soldier who struggles to readapt after Sierra Leone’s civil war.

Aduaka was awarded the Etalon d’Or de Yennenga, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, at the closing ceremony of the Fespaco film festival in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou on Saturday.

The main character of the film, Ezra, passes his days between a rehabilitation clinic and a national reconciliation tribunal established by the United Nations.

At the tribunal, Ezra must face his sister who accuses him of murdering their parents, although he remembers nothing of what happened.

Sierra Leone’s 1991 to 2002 civil war, fuelled by “blood diamonds” sold by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to buy arms, killed more than 200 000 people and left the former British colony in ruins.

The conflict was notorious for gangs of drugged children, often not yet teenagers, who killed, raped and mutilated their way across the West African country, hacking off victims’ limbs.

A common initiation ritual was to force children to slaughter their own parents, making it impossible for them ever to return home.

Cannes of Africa

Fespaco turns dusty Ouagadougou into the Cannes of Africa for a week. African directors often complain that funding is hard to secure and that distribution is difficult on a continent where most cinemas show Hollywood blockbusters and martial arts films.

The festival’s second prize went to Cameroonian Jean Pierre Bekolo for Les Saignantes (The Bleeding), while Chad’s Mahamat Saleh Haroun scooped third place with Darrat (Dry Season).

Il va pleuvoir sur Conakry (It’s going to rain on Conakry) by director Cheik Fantamady Camara, a love story set amid political machinations of the Guinean capital, won the public’s prize.

The film shows devout Muslims praying for rain, their call to prayer cynically manipulated by politicians eager to use religion to keep their people in check. - Reuters

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