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Fespaco Movie Festival Opens in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso's African biennial movie festival has opened in the capital, Ouagadougou, with 20 feature-length works competing for the Gold Stallion of Yennenga.

The Fespaco opened its eight-day celebration of movies with its own hymn.

Some of the works competing for the top prize include stories about the scars of genocide, a transvestite mortician, and a veteran Angolan civil war fighter returning to civilian life. The Gold Stallion of Yennenga goes to the film that best depicts African realities.

This movie, called Ouaga Saga, about Burkina Faso's capital, will be a hometown favorite. It tells the story of how big city youths cope with AIDS, work stress, and family headaches through music. It also includes a talking donkey.

There are also categories for short films, video documentaries and films by African directors who live outside the continent.

One of the festival's organizers, Youn Bahissinine, says there will also be a crucial workshop on training.

"For us to have good and well made films, we need well-trained people, and, you know that, in Africa, like in many fields, we are a bit lagging behind," he said. "So, we need well-trained technicians, well-trained industry people for our films, to be better and to be able to make their way through the international arena."

Except for being showcased at such festivals, most African movies rarely get distributed anywhere.

Proper film industries of once rich West and Central Africa have also almost completely disappeared, with the exception of Fespaco's host country, Burkina Faso.

But the region is home to one of the most prolific video movie markets, especially in Nigeria, where several thousand of what are known as home videos are produced yearly.