In Ouagadougou's popular video clubs Hollywood trumps Africa


June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 6, 2009 at 3:12 PM EDT

Squeezed in between the houses on a dusty path in the middle of Ouagadougou's crowded Saint Leon neighbourhood some 40 spectators are glued to the television screen.

On the menu of the Cine Club tonight: Special Forces, a straight to DVD American action flick. The audience sits on wooden benches, fixated on the old television mounted on a rickety table, its legs stabilised by rocks. Their reverential silence sometimes broken by wild applause after a particularly spectacular action scene.

The Cine Club is just a stone's throw from the movie theatres where Ouagadougou's Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) screens the cream of the crop of African films, but here in this poor neighbourhood only Hollywood is on the menu.

The people here simply don't have the money to spend on tickets to a real cinema. During the festival prices range from 300 CFA francs (0.46 euros, 0.57 dollars) to 1,500 CFA francs (2.28 euros, 2.87 dollars).

Previous FESPACO editions had very popular free open air screenings organised for Ouagadougou's inhabitants but this year organisers have banned those, causing much grumbling among the locals.

"They can't afford the ticket prices. If someone has 500 CFA francs and goes to see a movie with that what will he have left for food the next day? Here they pay 150 CFA francs for three movies and still have 350 CFA francs left," Boubacar Nanema, the owner of the Cine Club, said looking out at his clients.

He insisted that contrary to what some African filmmakers have been saying, Africans do like African films.

"People love African films but they cannot see them. You can hardly find them on DVD. What he can get are films from Nigeria and Ghana in English or in Ibo (a Nigerian language)," explained Namena, better known as "Koro Bouba" (Brother Bouba).

"We have the impression that African filmmakers make movies for Europe. It's ridiculous not to make your films available and then complain that people don't watch them. That's not true," the 40-something pater familias said.

His Cine Club is also the subject of a documentary in the FESPACO competition this year by Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno, who suggests that African filmmakers should start working more with these small scale video clubs.

Boubacar wholeheartedly agrees.

"We are here in poor neighbourhoods where nobody has the means to go to the big movie theatres. If the important African directors and producers would try to work with us, the small clubs in the neighbourhoods, we could promote African films," he said.

He is sure more African films would be a big hit.

"People will recognise our actors and word will spread," he predicted.

According to the Cine Club owner there are some 250 video clubs like his in Ouagadougou alone compared to only nine movie theatres for the city's 1.5 million inhabitants.

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