Cuba in Africa Wins Thomas Sankara Prize at Burkina Faso Festival
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
From late February to early March, in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, there was the week-long Africa’s largest film festival FESPACO.
In fact, FESPACO was launched in 1969. This festival provided some kind of entertainment, but the most important aspect was the platform created a show screening different films with diverse themes. The competition was very keen, with rewards for winners delivering excellent results.
Wolfram Vetter, the European Union ambassador in Burkina Faso, called the film festival “an important contribution to peace and reconciliation in Burkina Faso and beyond.” The EU was the event’s largest funder after the Burkinabe government and has contributed approximately €250,000, an equivalent of ($265,000).
Records showed that there were more than 15,000 people, including cinema celebrities from African countries such as Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast, and from abroad, including France and the United States. Some 1,300 films were submitted for consideration, and 100 were selected to compete from 35 African countries and the diaspora, including movies from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Nearly half of those in the fiction competition this year were directed by women.
Among them was Burkinabe director and producer Apolline Traore, whose film “Sira” – considered a front-runner in this year’s competition – emblematic of many Burkinabes’ suffering. It tells the tale of a woman’s struggle for survival after being kidnapped by jihadis in the Sahel, as her fiancé tries to find her.
An interesting film, “Cuba in Africa”, has received a warm, emotional response all over the world. Most people never heard of this story. Screening this film, people were touched by the altruism of Cubans who sacrificed their sons and daughters on behalf of Africa.
Negash Abdurahman, producer of Cuba in Africa, told us that his film had won the Thomas Sankara Prize. Abdurahman is an Ethiopian-American filmmaker and an educational technology specialist. He is also the Founder of RI Systems Inc.
His award-winning film Cuba in Africa was years in the making, overcoming many challenges. Cuba in Africa told the story of Cuban volunteers who gave everything to win the independence of Angola and Namibia and contributed to the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Abdurahman spoke briefly with us from Ouagadougou. Here are the interview excerpts:
How would you interpret the film festival that took place in Burkina Faso? What are the key features of this gathering?
FESPACO is the biggest, oldest and most prestigious film festival in Africa. FESPACO is the French acronym for the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou. The 28th edition of FESPACO took place from February 24 to March 5 in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso.
The festival opened with much fanfare and cultural pageantry. The heads of state of both Burkina Faso and Mali attended the opening ceremonies. For me, one of the emotional moments of the opening ceremonies was the Sidiki Diabate of Mali playing the mesmerizing Kora, a traditional string instrument of several West African countries.
In your critical assessment, what were some of the messages translated to the audience there? Are these related to Africa’s political culture, traditions and history?
FESPACO celebrates African cinema and tells African stories through the eyes of Africans. This was very clear at this year’s festival as well. This year’s theme was “African Cinema and Culture of Peace.”
Before the festival, there was much tension because of the conflict going on in the northern part of Burkina Faso. Some people feared that it might not even be held at all. Playing on this fear, according to a few Burkinabe I spoke to, the French threatened not to protect the festival if they did not get their way.
French troops did, in fact, depart a few days before the opening of the festival. Fortunately, the Burkinabe were able to provide their protection. The festival and all associated music and cultural celebrations concluded without a hitch.
What place was the film “Cuba in Africa” in the festival? What other films have similar themes to this film during the demonstration (show) in Burkina Faso?
My film, Cuba in Africa, was an official selection in the short documentary category. Cuba was the only country in history that came to Africa’s aid without expecting anything in return. An Island nation of roughly 8 million people at the time sent over 400,000 people – military as well as civilians – to help Africans in their fight for freedom.
This was unprecedented. I am honoured to report that we won the much-coveted Thomas Sankara Prize. You can watch a two-minute trailer for Cuba in Africa at http://www.cubainafrica.com.
How was the final conclusion, in spite of the challenges and setbacks, of the festival?
The best films won trophies and monetary awards in their respective categories. The mood was celebratory. FESPACO is a truly African institution with its own warm, unique characteristics.
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Data Shows Opportunities for Streaming Services in Romance Films
By Adedapo Adesanya
Fresh data over Valentine’s period show that streaming services could yet tap a goldmine from major opportunities available in the romance films genre.
According to data provided to Business Post by Reel Good, a streaming aggregator website, romance movies have been overlooked, but available numbers show that there is a resurgence.
According to Reel Good, “Five romance movies that premiered in 2023 accounted for 28 per cent of the streaming share out of the top 100 romance movies available to stream in the United States—meaning that people are starved for this content.”
It was also revealed that among the top 100 available to stream in the US between February 10 and February 23, five brand-new romance films accounted for a 12 per cent share of streaming. These include Your Place or Mine (Netflix, 2023); Somebody I Used to Know (Prime Video, 2023), You People (Netflix, 2023), Empire of Light (HBO Max, 2022), and Shotgun Wedding (Prime Video, 2022).
Netflix’s Your Place or Mine, a film about two long-distance friends swapping homes for a week and learning so much about themselves, recorded 7.3 per cent of streaming and engagement share from the two-week period among the top 100 romance films on Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) and Advertising-Based Video on Demand (AVOD) in the US while it had a 3.0 per cent streaming and engagement shared among the top 100 movies on both SVOD and AVOD.
Prime Video’s Somebody I Used to Know, which features a workaholic questioning everything about herself when her ex decides to move on with his life, saw 6.4 per cent in the top 100 romance films and 2.7 per cent in the top 100 films ranking.
Another offering from Netflix, You People, which is about a new couple and their family members examining their values and what is expected of them, accounted for 6.2 per cent in the top 100 romance category while on the top 100 films streaming and engagement share, it was about 2.6 per cent.
HBO Max’s Empire of Light recorded a 4.7 per cent of streaming and engagement share from the two-week period among the top 100 romance films on SVOD and AVOD in the US, while it had a 1.9 per cent streaming and engagement share among the top 100 movies on both SVOD and AVOD. It follows the story of a cinema manager struggling with her mental health, which forms a relationship with a new employee on the south coast of England in the 1980s.
Shotgun Wedding from Prime Video came next with a 3.4 per cent and 1.4 per cent share, respectively. The film takes the audience into a hostage situation at a wedding, where the couples must do all they can to save their loved ones.
Early predictions show that these numbers may yet get better, but streaming services could be sleeping on a major opportunity if they are not investing in romance.
Burna Boy to Perform at 2023 UEFA Champions League Final
By Adedapo Adesanya
In a historic move, Nigerian Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum-selling singer, songwriter, and producer, Damini Burna Boy Ogulu will co-headline the 2023 UEFA Champions League Final Kick-Off Show at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on Saturday, June 10.
The Last Last crooner will be the first African act to perform at the event sponsored by Pepsi since it was started in 2016 and became known as the UEFA Champions League Final Kick-Off Show by Pepsi, which replaced the UEFA Champions League Opening Ceremony.
This year’s other co-headliner will be announced soon, a statement said, adding that “the Nigerian star will bring his energy and signature soulful vibes of afro-beats to millions of fans before the biggest club fixture in football gets underway.”
Speaking on this, Burna Boy said, “As a huge football fan myself, I know it doesn’t get any bigger than the UEFA Champions League! That’s why I’m so excited to be performing on the Pepsi stage at this year’s final. Music and football are the ultimate combinations, so you already know I’ll be bringing the vibes and making magic in Istanbul. The world isn’t ready for what we have in store!”
On his part, Mr Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA marketing director, said: “The UEFA Champions League Final Kick-Off Show is a significant part of our joint efforts with Pepsi, providing an incredible opportunity to reach new and younger audiences with some of the biggest names and rising stars in music.
“We’re excited to showcase a line-up of talented artists at this season’s final in Istanbul in what is sure to be an energetic and memorable performance.”
On his part, Mr Gustavo Reyna, Pepsi’s senior director of global marketing, said: “The UEFA Champions League final is the stand-out date of the club football calendar, and Pepsi prides itself on marking the occasion with the very best entertainment spectacles.
“The newly named ‘Kick Off Show by Pepsi’ is going to be huge this year; we’re so excited to welcome Burna Boy, one of the world’s most exciting artists, to the final stage, and we can’t wait to see which fans are selected to feature as part of this truly unmissable performance.”
Adekunle Gold Signs Music Deal With Def Jam
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigerian hitmaker, Adekunle Adekunle Gold Kosoko, has signed with a top recording label, Def Jam, in a deal that will see the company release his fifth studio album later this year.
In a scoop with music publication, Billboard, Def Jam CEO/chairman, Mr Tunji Balogun, said that the label had been following the High crooner for the last six years when he was Olamide’s YBNL label and made Sade, a localised version of One Direction’s Story of My Life.
He said, “Over the years, everything in AG’s world has elevated — his songwriting has refined, the scope of his artistry has widened, his vocals have strengthened, his approach to fashion is more distinct, and his showmanship and performance ability have grown exponentially.
“He’s stepped into stardom on his own terms and is completely comfortable being his true self.”
“When I started at Def Jam, I knew I wanted to bring the label into the Afrobeats space tastefully, with the right artists and partnership. Adekunle felt like the perfect fit – he’d already done so much work on his own to build a base, but I knew that we could scale his audience to an even higher level if we combined our energies and worked together,” Mr Balogun added.
Speaking on the deal, the Ire crooner said, “The track record is there. The history is there. They break artists, and they have a niche, unique artists like me, so I think it’s the right move for me. All of the things that I’ve done for myself already, they know already, and that’s why they’re on board.”
The first single from the new relationship is a song titled Party No Dey Stop with Marlian Music wunderkind, Zinoleesky, which dropped on Wednesday, March 15.
It was revealed that an album will drop in June after which the singer will embark on a four-month world tour starting in North America in September and then to the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and the Caribbean through next year.
On Olamide’s label, Adekunle Gold released his first album Gold in 2017, and after his exit, he released three albums, and he did two through his label, Afro Urban Records. 2018’s About 30 and 2022’s Catch Me If You Can. He released his 2020 album, Afro Pop, Vol. 1, under EMI.
“Hear it from me. Afrobeats is taking over the world,” Adekunle Gold told the publication.
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