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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 16:46 GMT
African director slams Western 'partners'
By Rich Cookson
BBC Focus On Africa magazine

Daniel Kouyaté
Kouyaté himself trained in France
Award-winning African film director Dani Kouyaté has condemned the process which requires most movies from the continent to be funded by Western companies.

Kouyaté, who is currently filming his latest project, Ouaga Saga, in Burkina Faso, said that because funding was held by Western companies most films were subject to changes that did not reflect the filmmakers' original vision.

Like the majority of African films, Ouaga Saga is being made only thanks to funding from France - it will cost roughly CFA700m ($1,2m): CFA200m ($343,000) to shoot in Ouagadougou and CFA500m ($858,000) for post-production in Paris.

"It is rare [for us] to make films alone," Kouyaté told the BBC's Focus On Africa magazine.

"The post-production labs are in the West and it's not possible for us to work without Westerners.

"When we go to labs in Paris they have no confidence in us."

Going West

Kouyaté added that

"You say, 'I'll send the money to you later' but they want it there and then," he stressed.

"So we have to have foreign partners."

Kouyaté himself lives in Paris and studied at the Sorbonne, the academic home of arts and literature at the University of Paris.

"Paris is the capital of African film," he said.

"Unless you go there, you can't make films in Burkina Faso.

"Most young Burkinabé film-makers and actors want go to the West to pursue their careers."

Although around two or three films a year are made in Burkina Faso - more than most sub-Saharan African countries - Kouyaté said that this was not enough.

He criticised the country's government - usually lauded for its commitment to cinema - saying he felt too much emphasis was placed on the hosting of the Fespaco Film Festival and not enough on film-making.

President Blaise Compaoré, an avid film enthusiast, has bailed out several productions with his own cash.

"The president personally loves cinema but why does he have to give his own money?" Kouyaté said.

"That shows there is a problem somewhere."

Digital solution

Kouyaté - and and many of his fellow African film-makers - believe they will only have the freedom to tell the stories they feel are important if they are given financial independence.

"It's not important for us to compete with international films," explained Gaston Kaboré, one of Kouyaté's teachers and a colossus in Burkina Faso's film history.

"We've already proved that we can make nice pieces. What is important is that our films speak to our people."

Kouyaté said he believed the future - and the solution to the problem - could be digital technology, which is rapidly lowering the cost of some parts of the film-making process.

Ouaga Saga, for example, is being shot with digital cameras. Shooting on digital is much cheaper than celluloid, and also cuts down much of the post-production costs.

"The solution is to be independent," Kouyaté said.

"Maybe because of new technology there'll be a new autonomy that will permit us to work alone."

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