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As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine November/December 2000
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Cultural Travel

Film in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Few people believe Ouagadougou is a real place much less the capital of a West African country and the home of the world’s largest festival of African films. But the Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) is held every other year in the very real and vibrant capital of Burkina Faso. One of the world’s great international cinema events, the festival attracts celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover along with many thousands of international film fanatics

FESPACO has had some economic difficulties over its 30-year history but it has never sold out to corporate or political investors and has retained its African leadership and original mission: “To distribute and develop African cinema as a means of expression, education, and awareness raising.” The festival electrifies Ouagadougou with a carnival-like energy; festival-goers are certain to be swept away by the contagious excitement which spills out of the cinemas into the busy streets in the form of dancing, food festivals, and general celebration.

Burkina Faso is usually overlooked as a travel destination simply because of its location. Yet it is precisely because of its land-locked situation that the country has preserved its heritage much better than some of its better-known and more modernized neighbors. A trip to this little Sahelian country shouldn’t be missed by anyone who wants to get in touch with Africa’s proudest past and brightest future. The plane ticket will be your biggest expense—Burkina Faso is a bargain even compared with Senegal or the Ivory Coast.

Burkina’s central airport in Ouagadougou is surprisingly well-served by many convenient flights from Europe and Senegal, connecting directly with flights from the U.S. From the airport, paved roads stretch out in all directions, branching into adventurous dirt roads which take you “out into the bush” and into the center of vibrant, distinct cultures practically untouched by modernity.