Idrissa Ouedraogo

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Idrissa Ouedraogo
Idrissa Ouedraogo © Brussels Ave

Article

´Good quality, inspiration and intelligent enterta

Born in Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) in 1954, Idrissa Ouedraogo is the black-African director who is best known internationally. His feature films ´Yaaba´, ´Tilai´, Samba Traore´ and ´Kini & Adams´ have won many international awards.
´The African public expects from us good quality, inspiration and intelligent entertainment,´ said Idrissa Ouedraogo during a discussion about African films in the House of World Cultures in Berlin. Only with these qualities can African directors hope to fare better in African cinemas. Born in Banfore (at that time Upper Volta but now Burkina Faso) in 1954, Ouedraogo was rejecting the motto of African directors for many years after independence. This was the motto that films should educate the viewer, shred his superstitions, open his mind and stuff him with information.

Ouedraogo vehemently rejects clichés about African films: ´There is no such thing as African films. If our differences are not considered individually, we are brushed aside. That doesn´t encourage variety.´ In 1993 at the Berlinale, Ouedraogo pointed out that the notion of African films is also an economic principle of exclusion: ´Only one film per year from Africa is financed, not only because there is a limited public for such films but also because the films are thought to be interchangeable.´ For other reasons too, Ouedraogo wants to avoid being pigeon-holed as a folklorist: ´Above all I want to get away from being pitied and from a folkloristic presentation of Africa.´ His hope: ´We are struggling as African filmmakers to show that we are no more different to you than you are to us: the only difference is economical.´

With ´Kini & Adams´, the film which opened the festival ´FESPACO ´97´ (´Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision´) and which won the Golden Palm at Cannes, the director from Burkina Faso more than lives up to his own principles. ´Kini & Adams´ is a tragic comedy about two men who put a car together out of numberless pieces, to enable them to leave their village for a town. Both these workers from Zimbabwe share the big dream of city-success. The unexpected chance of earning some money seems to be a way to make their dream come true, but this stroke of luck finally makes them trick one another. The film is about the universal themes of friendship and betrayal, love and jealousy, as they occur in a mining settlement in Zimbabwe. Its witty and pithy dialogue and shrewdly simple and often lengthy takes make the film typically African despite its individuality. It was filmed and produced in Zimbabwe with South African actors.

Idrissa Ouedraogo chooses a universal theme in ´Samba Traora´ (1993) too, even if the film is set in Burkina Faso. Already in the first scene, the director distances himself from the ´classical´ African film. This scene shows a robbery at a petrol station, whereby Samba Traoré gains a lot of money and his pal dies. The gains form the basis of Samba Traoré´s wealth on returning to his village, where he marries Saratou, and everything looks rosy; but Ouedraogo makes it clear from the start that Samba will agonise over his ill deed.

´Samba Traoré´ is notable for its simplicity and direct development. The camera, too, is easy-going. We wander calmly through a wide field and see the heat and drought, while a chirping often replaces the sparse speech. The characters are archetypal: there are the caring parents, the mistrustful neighbours and the rejected lover, who finally betrays the thief. The evil in Samba´s house is destroyed by his father with a burning splint.

´Your film has a universal theme; it alludes to Dostoievski´s "Crime and Punishment"...I am sad to see that it pays tribute to European themes and neglects truly African ones,´ moaned a critic in 1993 at the Berlinale, where ´Samba Traore´ won a Silver Bear. Patiently but clearly the black filmmaker from Africa defended his right to be influenced by Dostoievski or by Film Noir: ´My being black does not necessarily mean that I have read neither Kant nor Molière...´ And since it seemed to be called for, he added: ´Europe has no idea of persons, of individuality in Africa.´ But the feelings of a Burkina in love are much the same as those of a Belgian in love, he added. Likewise the fear of a man on the run is more or less universal, be he in Glasgow or Ouagadougou.

In ´Yaaba´ (1989), though, Ouedraogo shows all the paradoxes in the life of a village in Burkina Faso. In the language of the Mooré in Burkina Faso, ´Yaaba´ means ´grandmother´ and is the name given by the twelve-year-old Bila to old Sana, whom the villagers take to be a witch and thus banish from the community. Slowly the lad and the lonely old woman come to trust one another. When Bila´s cousin Nopoko sickens with tetanus, Sana´s ´evil eye´ is held to be responsible, but Bila asks the old woman for help. Though held to be a witch, she goes to a healer for medicine, then the village calms down again. But at the end of the film, the two young people find Sana peacefully leaning against a wall, dead. Together with the other outsider in the film, the drinker Noaga, they bury the old woman.

´Yaaba´ is an affectionately designed and poetic commentary on growing up. At the same time, the two young people with their thirst for knowledge and their desire for fairness and progress embody the need of African society for emancipation, not only from colonialism but also from traditional culture. But Idrissa Ouedraogo never loses his respect for tradition. He conveys the beauty of the West African steppes, the habits of the respectable old lady, and the casual playfulness of the children. In so doing, he uses mostly calm pictures and long takes, which give the viewer time to notice the details. All the actors are non-professional, most of them being from the village where the filming was done. The old woman who played Sana had never seen a film before. ´Yaabi´ gives us an intimate non-voyeuristic view of the culture of Burkina Faso.

In ´Scenarios from the Sahel´ (2000), Idrissa Ouedraogo turns to efforts to hinder the spread of Aids in Africa. The first three films which he already made on this theme in 1997 are part of a big anti-Aids project of the ´HIV and Development Program´ of UNDP in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali. Young people up to the age of 24 years were invited to submit tales for films of 1 to 3 minutes in length. Ouedraogo was impressed by the humanity of the young authors who told him of their everyday life. Already in ´Afrique, Afrique...´ (1995) he had focused on Aids together with the pop-musician Ismael Lo. In this film, Ismael Lo plays the role of a young man who wants to be a musician and moves to town. He there meets an old flame, who has become a prostitute. When she dies of Aids, he uses his musicality to spread information about Aids.


Events at the HKW:
Kinderkino
Fremde Kulturen im Kinderfilm
Sonntag, 23. August 1992
Dienstag, 25. August 1992
Sonntag, 24. Oktober 1993
Dienstag, 26. Oktober 1993
Mittwoch, 5. März 1997
Sonntag, 2., 9., 16., 23. und 30. März 1997
Yaaba

Sonntag, 14. November 1993
Dienstag, 16. November 1993
A Karim na Sala / Karim und Sala

Sonntag, 19. Dezember 1993
Dienstg, 21. Dezember 1993
Les Eucuelles / Schalen
Issa, le Tissérand / Issa, die Seidenweberin

Veranstalter: Haus der Kulturen der Welt


Cinema Afrika
Retrospektive des "Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou"

Samstag, 23. Oktober 1993
Donnerstag, 28. Oktober 1993
Samba Traoré

Sonntag, 28. November 1993
Poko

Sonntag, 23. Januar 1994
Tilaï

Montag, 16. Februar 1998
Dienstag, 17. Februar 1998
Sonntag, 22. Februar 1998
Kini & Adams

Veranstalter: Haus der Kulturen der Welt

1993: Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Zusammenarbeit mit den Freunden der Deutschen Kinemathek e.V.


Author: Ulrich Joßner 

Bio

Idrissa Ouedraogo was born on 21st January, 1954 in Banfora (Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta). He studied film at the ´Institut Africaine d´Études Cinématographiques´ in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. His short film ´Poko´ (1981) won the critics´ award of ´FESPACO´. After further studies in Moscow and Paris, he gained a diploma in cinematography at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1989 he won the critics´ award in Cannes for ´Yaaba´, in 1990 the Golden Palm in Cannes for ´Tilai´, and in 1993 the Silver Bear in Berlin for ´Samba Traore´. His great popular success ´Kini & Adams´ was nominated in 1997 for the Golden Palm in Cannes. In ´Afrique, mon Afrique...´ (1995) and ´Scenarios from the Sahel´ (2000) he focused on the spread of Aids in Africa.

Works

Scenarios from the Sahel

Film / TV,
2000

Afrique, mon Afrique …

Film / TV,
1997

Kini & Adams

Film / TV,
1997

Les Parias du Cinéma

Film / TV,
1997

Le Cri du cœur

Film / TV,
1994

Samba Traoré

Film / TV,
1993

Obi

Film / TV,
1991

Karim et Sala

Film / TV,
1991

Tilai

Film / TV,
1990

Yaaba

Film / TV,
1989

Yam Daabo / Le choix

Film / TV,
1986

Issa le tisserand

Film / TV,
1985

Tenga

Film / TV,
1985

Ouagadougou, Ouaga deux roues

Film / TV,
1984

Les écuelles

Film / TV,
1983

Les funérailles du Larlé

Film / TV,
1983

Pourquoi?

Film / TV,
1981

Poko

Film / TV,
1981
video

Film excerpt

taken from "Tilai" (1990)
Brussels Ave
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