BEST PRACTICES: L’ŒIL DU CYCLONE BY SÉKOU TRAORÉ

Mouna N'diaye

THE STORY

L’Œil du cyclone, by Burkinabé director Sékou Traoré, tells the tale of when beauty and rebellion meet. A child soldier, now rebel leader is accused of war crimes and a young female lawyer, charged with his defence, is hoping to ensure justice prevail in this corrupt nation. 

Streets and villages from several African countries, such as Cameroon and Burkina Faso, are paraded across the screen, but we are unaware of where the film's action takes place. L'Oeil du cyclone is somewhere in Africa and throws around the contradiction which, to this day, ravages entire regions through corruption and war.

 

A TIME BOMB

The film reminds us that there are still 150,000 child soldiers in the world today. A real time bomb, according to the director who advocates the reconditionning of these victims turned executioners. But what role does cinema play in all this? It serves to recondition “the spectators, the audiences, the governors and all those who make political and social decisions.

 

SENSITIVE ISSUES

Sékou Traoré's film deals, above all else, with some sensitive issues, sometimes even taboos, which need to be discussed nonetheless.

A war criminal is defended by a young woman. In this way, the film puts the spotlight on the right for justice (a fundamental human right) right away. As a woman, his lawyer must fight in order to impose herself on this man's world. And as such another theme revealed: gender equality. The court case uncovers the corruption that goes all the way to the highest levels of government. It calls the people to arms to rebel against it and to install a democracy in its place. These issues are thus all at the heart of the film. The story takes is set in an imaginary country and as such, it plays out as a sort of fable, not referring to any specific country.

 

THE FILM AND ITS AUDIENCE

This film definitely draws its strength from the reception it received from its viewership. The same questions seem to arise, even with completely different audiences. One of the most common questions was "why choose a female lawyer over a male one?" The whole film, and especially the lawyer's at the end, is the trigger for very interesting discussions about child soldiers. The director and the producers of the film receive many e-mails and text messages with people's reflections and feelings.

At the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa, a country which is distant from Burkina Faso on several levels, the film inspired intense debates, focusing mainly on democracy and corruption.

The film's screening at festivals, schools and universities has had an enormous impact, with heated discussions continuing well after these sessions. The film has been widely praised for taking such daring stances and for its emphasis on political and social issues. The audience has realised that the protagonists' stories not only spoke to them, but also called African peoples reflect on themselves, as well as to bring new talents to their continent's film industry.

L’Œil du Cyclone is trying to provoke a change in mentality. I can be considered as a reference model for many African nations, where the creativity of their directors plays an increasingly important role in the construction of an open and responsible society.

 

CINEMATIC REVIVAL IN BURKINA FASO

Thanks to his film, Sékou Traoré maintains hope for the Burkinabé cinema industry as well as African cinema in general: "I think that we are going through a real resurgence, with new production tools and with a governments realising they musto put money back into cinema", the director remarked.

"This co-production with Cameroon has opened new horizons for both our countries, especially for our technicians. With this film, our cinematic professionals' qualifications have been able to improve and we've also assisted in educating several students by taking them on as interns during the filming process. Our collaboration with the ACPCultures+ Programme has helped us to improve our compatibility tools and permitted us to increase the rigour and precision of the daily stability of the project's financial and legal monitoring. In terms of the Direction Générale de la Cinématographie du Burkina (Directorate General for Cinema of Burkina Faso - DGCN), which manages funding for the film industry, the film's success has given further argument to the the request for more Burkinabé State funds to increase the State's participation in each high-quality project. The overall budget in 2014 was 200 million CFA francs, which should double in 2015. It is a very  significant result for us allclaimed Sékou Traoré.

 

QUALIFICATIONS OF TECHNICIANS AND NEW CO-PRODUCTIONS

This production has brought with it a great boon in technicians' qualifications in Burkina Faso and Cameroon. 50 actors, 70 Burkinabé technicians and 600 ACP extras honed their skills during production, with around 10 students taking on internships during the project (some of which have since been employed in other productions).

"This production has allowed us to create several new links between our two countries as well as France," the film's producers explained. Since the film's production, new co-productions between Cameroon, Burkina Faso and France have seen day. The film, having been screened throughout several countries in festivals and national releases, and the main theme of the story, that of the fate of child soldiers, have resonated strongly with audiences. The issue of corruption, one of the story's sub-themes, has had an unexpected effect in the form of the Burkinabé uprising taking place in 2014, just four months out from the film's world premiere at FESPACO.

 

PROMOTING BURKINA FASO

Selected in more than 50 EU and ACP festival, and winning 15 prizes (three of which were at FESPACO 2015), the film has gained remarkable esteem. FESPACO, the biggest film festival in Africa, which takes place in Ouagadougou in March every two years, has honoured this film in a special way, awarding it the Etalon de Bronze (Bronze Stallion), awards for best female and male actor, the Oumarou Ganda award for best first feature film,  the UEMOA and CEDEAO awards as well as the Ousmane Sembène ECOBANK award. The film has been aired at other prestigious film festivals such as Durba, Dubai, Namur, Amiens...

Even though the film is mainly targeted at the national population, it has been promoted at an international scale through potential co-producers. The film's quality has allowed it to promote Burkina Faso's talents, technicians and infrastructure, positioning the country as a viable filming or co-production partner.

 

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February 10, 2016
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