Thursday, February 24, 2011

Colonize your mind--PLEASE! part 1

First let me apologize to "the MAN." I have been blaming you for all that was wrong with my peeps and the under-development of Africa. You do, of course, deserve some blame. After all you did pillage and plunder the continent for centuries, then leaving the people in disarray, confused, fighting and severely psychologically damaged. But that was then...

This is now... A continent ravaged in war, run by cruel leaders and dictators who pillage their own countries and share none of the wealth with their people (hmm sounds like today's USA), still living in a time long gone by and unable to get even the simplest of tasks done.

I had, what I thought, was the great fortune of being accepted in competition at the FESPACO Film Festival. FESPACO is 'Festival Pan African du Cinema et de Television de Ouagadougou' at 42 years it is one of the world's oldest film festivals. Often referred to as 'the African Oscars' or the Cannes (as in film fest) of Africa, 'AfriCannes', it is the biggest festival on the continent. It takes place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (the former French colony, Upper Volta) in WestAfrica.
The festival only happens every other year so you would think they'd have it down to a science, 'you would think.' Well, as they say, "TIA" or This IS Africa, & organization is the one thing that does not exist.

Unfortunately, of all the habits left over from colonization, this was not one of them, neither was an awareness of time. I know, I know, you're saying but people of colour are always on 'CP time.' Africa time is something else. My business partner, Michael, put it best, "CP time is an improvement of Africa time" and he's Jamaican! "Soon come."

For several years I have been trying to get into Fespaco. I tried with my documentary, Paper Trail: 100 years of the Chicago Defender. I sent in the necessary paper work but was told, too late, that it had to come thru the American arm.

I tried two years later with my short film, Morning Due, sending it to the American arm, but was told, too late, that they had a new sheriff in charge of Fespaco and were not using the American arm anymore. Alrighty then.

So out of habit, (honestly, I don't even remember filling out the paper work) I submitted my latest documentary DuSable to Obama: Chicago's Black Metropolis. And voila, it's accepted! (Must have been the French name 'DuSable'.) You can imagine my joy when receiving a letter that said not only was the film accepted in competition, but that they would provide airfare, food and lodging. Hooray, hooray!

Naturally, I send in everything they tell me to: PAL copies of film, posters, pictures, etc. etc., in a timely manner. Oh, they are asking for it again? But I already... hmm, I'll just remind them that they have it, and I'll take extra copies with me, just in case.

Okay so there I am singing, "I'm going to Africa! I'm going to Africa!" Whoa, not so fast Missy. You have to get your ticket first. Not a problem, they're sending it;-) But when? I send email after email, then I start calling, then I start calling with a French interpreter. It's getting closer to the time I am to leave. Now several friends call on other friends in Ouagadougou to go to the Fespaco offices. 'It's coming, it's coming right away" they tell them. Now it's the week before I am to leave and still no ticket.

We all begin to worry. Three sleepless days of calling, writing, disappointment and it's two days before I should leave. Michael and Calvin have left already, but I'm sure I'll meet them there, I think... And bam! my itinerary arrives. (It's scheduled on the wrong day and my name is backwards, but that can be easily corrected). For joy, for joy, that is, until I call Air France and find out my ticket has been booked but not paid for. WTF!!

Back to the phone calls, emails, fears and tears. It's now 4 hours before I'm suppose to leave, I'm packed but I have no ticket. My friend, Rakina, who has been helping thru her contacts in Burkina, now also leaves for Fespaco. She wishes me luck and tells me everything will work out. I keep checking for that email and finally 2.5 hours before my flight the email comes. (no more 'for joy', I've lost all excitement and confidence in the process)

I call Air France and miraculously just minutes ago the ticket was re-booked and PAID for, now with an 8 hour lay over at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, and if I get there within the next hour I can
make the flight. Zak whisks me off to the airport. (He never needs an excuse to drive like a madman) I make my flight and I'm on my way to Paris, more from Paris later...

Now back to "the MAN." If you had to leave all your colonial baggage for the African people to sort through, why couldn't you at least leave a few of your more positive things. (Yes, I hate to
admit it but, sigh, you do have some positive qualities--there I said it.) Like organization, efficiency and punctuality and... um, hmm --clears throat-- well I'm sure there are others, I just can't think of any more right now. Anyway I would settle for those three!

I've got it! Since they are all French anyway, maybe the Cannes Film Festival could colonize Fespaco.


  1. Babs, great to here you made the flight . Reminds me of a project in i was involved in and had to bring two of my investors along. It was doing last year and had similar issues with my plane tickets from Chicago /Ohare to Hollywood. It worked out with only 1 hour left to make the flight for a very important meeting in West-Hollywood 4 hours from that moment. Think of the embarrassment and the deal falling through if I didn't make that flight. Can't wait to here the rest of your story, when will you be back.

  2. Babs! I had no idea you were going through THAT kind of drama! Forty-two years and that's the best they could do? Incredible. But, hey, you made it with moments to spare. It was meant to be...

  3. Hey BA,

    I've always said you are a wild woman and wild women go with the flow. You go girl, you made it there and I can't wait to hear more of the adventure!


  4. Can't wait for the next episode! Despite the rocky start, I hope you'll win in the end. You've got a great product. And I knew that before even seeing the whole film.

    Maybe Africa is the way it is because when "The Man" was plotting, he only wanted the best. So he took the strongest and smartest, and left the rest.

  5. And on the total Zen side of things... one could say: "the ticket isn't necessary before one gets into the airport - so, yeah it was right on time."
    But that's me saying that after you've made the flight... and it wasn't my agita on the line.
    Ultimately, what an awesome testament to FAITH. Had you not packed and planned, you wouldn't have been able to make the trip.
    ROCK ON B.A.

  6. Hey BA,

    They say, "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger," but what an emotional roller coaster ride. So how many years will it take for them to get this right? I think some people function best in a state of chaos. So glad you had the vision and faith to be ready to continue the journey. I can't wait to hear all about it as I'm sure it's going to be a blast!