Burkina Faso is laying on tight security for Africa’s top film festival which kicks off on Saturday in a nation hit a year ago by a major terror attack.
More than 100 000 people are expected for the 10-day event in Africa’s hot and dusty self-styled cinema capital, where 33 people were killed and scores injured in an unprecedented jihadist assault in January 2016.
Held every two years, the Pan-African Film and Television Festival, better known as FESPACO, winds up March 4 with a red carpet awards ceremony in the city’s football stadium.
More than 160 movies are screening, including 20 features vying for the top award, the prized “Etalon d’Or” or Golden Stallion.
Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy will be the main draw of Saturday’s opening ceremony.
The prime movie venue is a 1 200-seat theatre but with films from across the continent organisers will be using moveable screens, the outdoors, schools, a shopping centre and villages – making the event a security headache.
“All measures have been taken for the safety of festival-goers, even if there’s no such thing as zero risk,” security chief Paul Sondo told AFP.
Despite last year’s attack by a three-man jihadist unit on city hotels and restaurants, the government ruled out cancelling the festival which has become the small and struggling nation’s premier event.
In December, the Burkinabe army suffered its biggest ever setback when 12 soldiers were killed during a jihadist raid on the Mali-Niger border.
Sondo said security forces had gained expertise after policing an arts and crafts festival in October-November last year.
A score of feature films from 14 African countries and the French West Indian territory of Guadeloupe are competing to take the top prize, won last year by “Fivres” (“Fevers”), by Moroccan director Hicham Ayouch.