April 2018

Idrissa Ouedraogo :
21 January 1954 – 18 February 2018

By Emmanuelle Pontié
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He walked his long silhouette on film sets and festivals, evoking with a rare talent the history, images, projects, movies, series….. Grand Prix of the jury in Cannes in 1990, the Burkinabé film director, one of the faces of contemporary African cinema, passed away at the premature age of 64 in Ouagadougou.
 
In 1987, Yam Daabo (“The Choice”) was projected in a cinema hall in Ouagadougou during the peak of Fespaco. As I walked out of the hall a tall chap, rather untidy and in a flip-flop slippers sat on the steps. I did not know him. He looked at me and said: “Hello! Did you watch the film? Did you like t? I pretended not to have seen him. He insisted. I then told him that I was thrilled by the first full length film. I adored it. The actors were natural, the lighting sublime, the slow camerawork and the beautiful countryside were breath-taking. He then gave a radiant smile and told me “I did the film.” I was quiet. This small masterpiece was what opened the route for an exceptional career that we all know. With Yaaba , (1989), then Tilai, the 1990 Grand Prix at the Cannes festival, in addition to the Stallion of Yennenga at Fespaco the  following year, followed by Samba Traoré in 1992 and Kini & Adams in 1997, which was done in English in South Africa. In 1991, he directed Aimé Cesaire’s ‘The tragedy of King Christopher’ at the Comédie Française. And of course the first Burkinabé series, Kadi Jolie, which made the rounds on the continent. Idrissa, a realist or a fatalist, told those who wished to listen to him at the beginning of 2000 that the African cinema is not progressing and that the time had come for series, on television as well as on DVD. In 2003 he produced La Colère de Dieux in 2003. On the whole, his prolific creation left in its trail, ten full length films, added to some 20 documentaries, short films and lesser known films co-produced, plus other television series. 
An indefatigable militant of the film industry, he once worked assiduously for the restoration of cinema halls in Ouagadougou at the request of the then President, Blaise Compaoré. He hosted, programmed and attracted spectators… and then the times changed.  But right on to the end, Idrissa spoke about images, talents, finance and the future. From festival to festival throughout the world, he defended the African image. Over a glass, cigarette in one hand, late at night. With an ever smiling face. An incredible gentlemanly behaviour laced with generosity that does not go over his head, yet Idrissa Ouedraogo would have done it. Because he is an African cinema icon who left us on the 18th of February at 64. And was a friend. 
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