Thursday, March 10, 2011

Final FESPACO installment

J-F gets up at 4am to go scout locations for his next doc. It’s about the slaves that are still in Africa near the Mali/Burkina border. White Touaregs own Black slaves and the slaves have no desire to be free. Interesting. The pictures he brings back later in the afternoon are amazing. That Canon 5D is a beast.

I have more meetings all afternoon still running about town on a scooter. Just as I get into the rhythm, it’s time to leave. J-F and I were laughing because we just met but it seemed like we’d known each other forever. That’s the great thing about travel, you can travel thousands of miles only to find the best friends that you’ve never met, yet. Sometimes there is no learning curve, it’s all so natural.

There were lots a good people here, Shivani, JoAnna, Christina, Richard, all the wonderful African filmmakers and the beautiful people of Burkina Faso. I guess it was worth all the trouble and chaos to come. So goodbye and thanx Burkina!

This should be the end of the story, credits rolling but WAIT! There’s more….

As I sit waiting in the Burkina airport, dying of thirst (I got rid of all my money so I cant buy anything and remember they don’t take Mastercard) guess who shows up and is on my flight and alone? My crush! Filmmaker Newton Aduwaka. Yes, that’s me dancing in the aisle! Does it get any better than this? It sure does...

We have a great conversation, exchange films and he buys me a drink. Life is good. Now you can roll credits as I drop the mic and walk off stage…

-- FIN--

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Homeless in Ouaga Pt 12

What do you mean it’s time to leave? I was just learning to swear in French and not like a Frenchman: Va te faire foute, connard! Ok that’s enough or I’ll be banned in yet another language.

It’s hard to tell what day it is, they all blend together. Everyone is constantly asking the day and date. One of the Canadian filmmakers had marked his guide with all the movies he wanted to see, only to find out he was a day early—back to the drawing/scheduling board.

It’s soooo hot 102-105 degrees and there’s very little shade. We are land locked on the edge of the Sahara Desert.

FESPACO has concluded and everyone is preparing to leave. Michael and Calvin left before the close and I’m also gathering my things to leave. The hotel has me sign some form for FESPACO and have me pay for incidentals. I have a car arranged to take me to the airport and I do some last minute shopping on the back of a motor scooter. It’s fun. I go by J-F’s to use his computer to skype Paris only to find out my flight isn’t until, what? Oh no! Tomorrow. But I’ve packed and checked out! We call the Relax ‘Don’t Do It’ Hotel and they say I was only booked through today. But FESPACO booked both the hotel and airline ticket. OMG, I‘m homeless. I see myself wander the streets of Ouaga all night with my luggage, maybe I could sell phone cards. That’s a popular free lance job here.

No one else is very concerned or think this is a big problem. (Of course not, they have a place to sleep) Someone suggest we go eat and party cause after all, hey hey, you’ve got another day with us in Ouaga. Are these people crazy?

Jean-Francois tells me not to worry that I can sleep in his room, he has two beds. Voila, problem solved—let’s go eat! Not only do i have a place to stay but it also fulfills my other wish: I’m staying at the HOTEL INDEPENDENCE! Yeah! I’m strutting around now like I own the place. I do, I have a key!

JoAnna wants to treat us all to dinner at an Italian restaurant where we will meet a couple of her friends. The restaurant was surreal, like a scene out of a movie. Sitting in the heart of Africa in an outdoor Italian garden. The 8 of us were having a great time. Suddenly one of the filmmakers from Chad spots this gorgeous woman sitting at a table alone. She didn’t look like a person having dinner alone. She had a joy about her like she was anticipating something wonderful. He leaves us to join her at her table and they get into a very animated discussion. We are having so much fun at our table that we forget about them. Finally he comes back and everyone starts drilling him. He gives up bits of info and promises to write a full report. There’s a phrase in Burkina when asking about a woman they say, “She’s a good actress.”

Still sitting alone at her table we all beckon her over to join us. She’s very delightful and beautiful. All the guys eyes have glazed over as she talks so passionately. She’s a doctor from Senegal working on HIV. She’s a good actress.

Doctor Good Actress tells us that in 15 minutes she’s going to the ballet around the corner and it only costs 500 cfa’s, which is about $1. It goes to help women who would otherwise have to work the streets to eat and the director is a friend of hers. So now we’re all going to the ballet. How’d she do that? Damn she’s a GREAT actress!

The ballet was outdoors (of course) and it was packed and eventually they had to turn people away. These folks love their culture. (I thought about some of our dance troupes like Muntu Dancers, and how they struggle. Wouldn’t they love the average neighborhood people to flood their events.) The dancers were great fun, the orchestra was also magnificent, half of them drummers. It was fun and everyone enjoyed it, but where was J-F and Dr. Beautiful?

Oh no, now where will I sleep? I clutch my Hotel Independence key, and I was so close. Joanna says I could stay with her. Ok. (but she’s not at the Independence:-(

As we’re leaving J-F and Doctor Love show up and he’s adamant about me staying with him. Seems the good doctor was very interested in him but he has a girlfriend that he loves and didn’t want to mess this up.

I don’t understand. What language is he speaking now? Oh, he’s serious, so I tell him that he is a noble guy and spend half the night telling him he did the right thing. (I guess) He should have no regrets and anyway he still has another night in Ouaga if he wants to change his mind. I’m sure he won’t. I go to bed humming, she’s a Maneater

Celebrate Pt 11

Time for the FESPACO Awards ceremony.

The awards are beautiful and some even come with cash prizes between 2,000,000-8,000,000 CFA’s. The closing ceremony is much like the open—big spectacle and the President and First Lady of Burkina Faso.

The awards are a bit boring for me, probably because we didn’t win;-O

I don’t feel bad because Raoul Peck wins, I think. I was there but it was a bit too low key. I guess I’m use to American awards where there is an inflection in your voice when you announce the winner. Monotone in French and English make for a drowsy evening. So when they announce, no mentioned, our category, it was hard to tell except I heard Peck’s name along with other names, then some guy that wasn’t Peck went on stage. Later I found out the winner was not Peck but the Haitian film Les amours d'un zombie (The Loves of a Zombie), by Arnold Antonin. No wonder that wasn't Peck on stage.

The ‘doctors without trace’ film I liked, Notre Etranger, won several prizes. The Moroccan film Pegase won the big prize. It was about a girl who created a fantasy world about horses and demons to escape the horrors of incest she was forced to endure. I hear it’s a different approach to a tough subject.

It’s a controversial film and some love it but others absolutely hated it. After the mother half of my Mom/Daughter duo saw it she promised to never come back to FESPACO of it won anything. Uh oh. We decide not to tell her. A winning filmmaker said he just couldn’t understand how THAT film won unless the Moroccans paid someone off. I have no opinion. I didn’t see it because I wasn’t in the mood for incest, horses & fantasy that wasn’t Catherine the Great.

Anyway Salif Keita is tonight!!

There were 2 albino films here, J-F had one and there was another about a 4 year old girl, and she loves Salif Keita. I’ve heard so much about her, and she was there at the concert! She even got on stage and danced with Salif. What a great moment.

It was Salif Keita’s birthday and he threw quite a birthday party for us. We even sang Happy Birthday twice. I love the way they throw money at the performers. His band is awesome, especially the electric kora. Wonderful, great backup singers and four different drummers.

After the concert everyone felt so good that we wanted to go out and celebrate the celebration…and so we did.

Back in the saddle pt 10

I feel better today, not 100% but good enough to go out, not good enough to eat.

Just found out how MUCH that Guy doesn’t like me. It seems there are 2 RELAX hotels. There’s the RELAX ‘Don’t do it’ Hotel of the third floor, that I’m on. And theres the RELAX Hotel on 2 and below that’s a REAL hotel. New carpet, double closets, real bathroom etc. etc. etc. and they have NO lizards! Mine is the lower end 1940’s special that Humphrey Bogart must have come thru on his way to Casablanca—and nothing has been changed since then.

This was the one time I could have acted a little more American and well, not complain but just inquire about the room condition. Doesn’t matter now, I’ve named the lizards and I’d probably miss them.

I find the Africans are terribly inefficient and it drives me crazy, but it’s easy to forgive them because they are so kind. In our fast moving efficient lives it’s easy to forget what basic human decency and graciousness is, especially when you’re Black in America. We become so use to the subtleties and stress of racism it becomes a part of your normal day. You don’t even realize it until you’re away from it.

In the states when Black people have to deal with authority figures like police, guards etc. you know you are more than likely treated with suspicion, contempt or at best ignored. (see driving while Black) If you ask questions or need help then you are an annoyance, that is, unless you are with white people. Then the kind voice ensues. This goes for Black or white authority figures.

In Africa when I would come in contact with authority figures or need help or just walking through the door (I was usually with other Black Africans so they did not necessarily see the ‘American’ me first) everyone was polite and helpful. People greet you with kindness, like cops talk to white people in the USA (they serve and protect everyone from us, cause we are always the bad guy). I found it unnerving at first and it kept happening, “Bonjour” “Bon Soir” A smile, a nod. Damn, is this how white people feel all the time? What was more amazing Black men here were not fearful of the police and they don’t feel like they are seen as the bad guy. That is an amazing load off your shoulders, a load you didn’t even realize you were carrying until the weight is lifted. Whew.

I never knew I was unconsciously approaching authority like a child that is use to being hit and is grateful when they are not beaten, even tho the child has done nothing to be beaten for. I’m going to enjoy this now because I know it will all come to an end when I step off the plane at O’Hare airport. When I get there I’m going to keep my mouth shut, ask no questions and pretend I too am loved.

Sick Pt 9

It’s the middle of the night and my stomach feels like it’s going to explode! I run into the bathroom and proceed to puke my guts out. This goes on for quite a while but I’ll spare you the sordid details. Finally I crawl back into bed and sleep only to awake in the morning with more of the same. OMG will this ever stop? I have not felt this bad since, ?… I’ve NEVER felt this kind of bad before. I’m done.

Can’t do anything all day. Try to go see a film at 6pm in a beautiful outdoor theatre at the Institut Francais. It’s a cute little love story from Cote D’Ivore. The leads are there. I loved the young co-star who played the little brother of the girl. He was a superb actor and he had no lines!

Towards the end of the film I break into a sweat and start to feel nauseas again. It seems Michael and Rashid got ill as well. Something we ate at the party. Luckily they brought some medicine to me for gastro-something. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow, but as for tonight, that’s all for me…

Hotel Independence Pt 8

Hot water again

Hanging out at the Azaila Hotel Independence, where I was suppose to stay. The action is happening here. Deals are being made, films are being sold, stars are poising. Too much fun.

Michael and I meet a filmmaker, Jean-Francois Méan. He’s from Montreal altho his mother is African-American and his father is Swiss. He’s made a film for an NGO about albinos, Black and White:Crimes of Colour. In some places albinos are considered a curse and in others good luck. Jean-Francois (JF) is fun and a great translator. He’s staying at the Hotel Independence and shows us around.

They have pool, tennis courts, 3 restaurants, internet in every room, 10 cable stations and fabulous bathrooms! This is the Trump tower next to my room. Oh well, next time…

We run into another Chicagoan, Shivani. She’s good friends with my buddy Eric from the Silver Room. We decide to call him and let him know we are together in Ouagadougou. He’s not surprised;-) We all decide to go to the party at the South African Embassy later tonight.

Back at the FESPACO grounds, it’s kind of like Taste of Chicago and the African Arts Festival combined, but bigger. In front of the gates are white evangelist telling people to repent for their sins because the world is coming to an end. They are here teaching hate and intolerance. WTF! Are these people everywhere. I look around to make sure Sarah Palin doesn’t show up with cookies. I almost smack one of them. Other Westerners are yelling at them to get the hell out of Africa, you freaks!!

Saw a romantic comedy that was an African adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. It had elements of science fiction, but African style. I have a new found respect for a people that appreciate the importance of their own image. It’s a mirror that reflects, exposes and enlightens the people.

The South African Embassy is quite a drive but it’s very nice. Great food and drink. Beautiful South African singers perform for us. Excellent company including a lovely Afro-Colombian woman and a British filmmaker living in Spain.

We have a great time, then leave for an after party by Burkina hip hop artist. After FESPACO there is a huge international reggae festival so the music people are gearing up.

We top it off with a night cap at, where else, the Hotel Independence.

D2O screens Pt 7

I have water, but no hot water

Saw an incredible short musical from Senegal, ‘Un Transport en Commun.’ Loved this film. It was very much a musical, think West Side Story. People sharing a taxi from Dakar to St. Louis (not that one, the one in Senegal with the great jazz festival) and they have adventure and songs on the way. Some of the time it’s a French musical but other times it’s very African in the music and dance. That’s when it’s most thrilling. It’s hard not to get up and dance with them.

Today is the first D2O screening. BTW the description is ALL wrong. My name is backwards, Dan’s has disappeared tho the writer and cameraman’s names have appeared. Whatever. So I am Allen. They expect a man…surprise, surprise. (guess when Dan decided not to come they cut him completely and made me a man) Hi, I am Allen, no really, I am he. I mean she. It’s Barbara Allen. Allen is my surname, not sir name. Forget it, I’ll be Allen. Yes, Allen Andries.

The posters look nice. I wish we had French subtitles because a lot more people could see it. Even with the language barrier people did seem to enjoy it. Many people wanted to order a copy. The people from the American Embassy were very impressed and we talked for a while. The woman who was going off on reporters about African-American images was there and she said she was proud. She wants her students to see it. The mother daughter duo also loved it and want to see it again. One guy said he hopes we win. An older French woman said she’d love to see French subtitles because she couldn’t understand some of the dialect, (I think it’s the

Jesse story about King) but that even tho she didn’t understand the words, she understood the pictures.
Later that night I would understand her even better when I was watching Raoul Peck’s film with no subtitles. I could follow most of it but I was loosing a lot in the (lack of) translation.

One unbelievable thing happened at the screening. We have a picture of a runaway slave that was caught, he has marks on his face. People told us they recognized the markings as one of the Mossi people of Burkina! Wow.

At the D2O screening we hook up with Rashid, who does most of the international festival circuits. We hung out at a couple of Cannes Film Festival and he’s done a couple of FESPACO’s, so he knows what’s up.

Calvin is hanging out with a girl who’s Dad is a big man with Interpol—I don’t think he realizes who and what that is…

Name, rank, serial number. I see nothing…

Once again I am amazed that there are so many great African films that we never see or hear about. New topics, interesting perspectives both visually and storywise, and I thought South Africans were the only ones making really commercial-esque films, cause they have more money. Nollywood produces more movies than anywhere else on the continent and they make sooo much money,yet they are not well represented here and most of the Nollywood movies suck. Seems they had the business model down before the film making skills. (Again like TP.) Someone told me today that the French put a lot of money into training filmmakers in their colonies and many went to Paris to train. I thought of another of my fave filmmakers, Euzhan Palcy, from Martinique, she was trained in Paris. With the British colonies, they didn’t invest in developing the culture, they were more interested in stealing it! So British colonies missed out on the film training but they learned to make money. So you end up with a slower, less evolved film community, that’s making tons of money with an inferior product. (who said Tyler Perry?) While countries like Mali, Cameroon, Senegal, Chad etc. have slamming films and filmmakers, but they’re broke.

We’re missing so much in the west and it is truly our lost. Every night you have to study the program books and mark off what you’re going to see and at which theatre. There are 13 venues and another 5-6 in the local neighborhoods farther away from Fespaco. So everyone is watching movies and having discussions.

This is perfect for me cause it combines everything I love: bikes, movies and Black people everywhere!

Let's go to the movies Pt 6

No water in shower today

Saw three films today, the first one from the USA. It was a shoot ‘em up, crack dealers, wannabe hoochies. I’ve seen it a million times, every other word is the ‘N’ word. Boring! Afterwards an African American woman is going off to reporters about these images. One reporter says it’s good for people to see that, "it’s not true that all Americans are rich." The woman counters that the gangster images are also wrong and that all Americans don’t have guns and kill people.

Thinking about the gangster image, it’s always been around since film began. So what’s the difference in the Black urban gangster images and say, uhm, Scorcese (my personal favorite American director) or Coppola films? Could it be that these films aren't just about glorifying the violence of the gang (notice I didn’t say Tarantino) but are about family values, creating & defining family units, friendship and growth. Characters evolve. Maybe the problem with these urban bang bangs is script and structure…

We leave the woman in the theatre yelling at reporters but not before we invite her to the DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis (aka D2O) screening for a different Black American image.

Next stop FESPACO offices to try to pick up those legendary ‘meal tickets.’ On our way out we run into French actor/comedian Emil Abossola-Mbo. I love this guy, we hung out in Paris a few years ago. He’s such a good actor, that I'd told our mutual friend that I didn’t want to meet him cause he was so menacing in the film ‘Ezra.’ He turned out to be one of the nicest people you could meet and very funny. Emil is one of the judges in the documentary category. No that’s not our category, we are Diaspora. Emil tells me that my ‘boyfriend’ director Newton Aduaka is here. (be still my heart) My crush is a running joke between us. Newton is the director of the 2007 Fespaco and Cannes Film Festival hit film, ‘Ezra.’ Talent and brilliance is certainly a sexy combination and Newton has plenty of both. Yum. Emil promises to come see D2O.

At the Fespaco offices, of course, no meal tickets again. Come back when the Guy is here. This was my third attempt, I give up. TIA. In the rotunda of the offices is an artist, Yewo who has work hanging and is creating some more smaller pieces. He is a Rasta and, as everyone does, he loves Michael Foster. The Jamaican thing is brilliant among Africans worldwide. He’s doing stuff with paper, and I tell him about Raymond (Thomas) and show him some of Raymond’s work (love the iPhone). I buy a small piece for Raymond and he sends him a shout out.

We are on our way to another theatre when one of the workers, Irenee, from the office, catches up with us and tells us the guy is there. Of course this is the GUY that does not like me and he’s telling everybody about me. Mais je suis American. They don’t like problems here and asking questions like ‘what flight am I on?’or ‘where am I staying?’ is a problem! I just laugh at him and force him to take a picture with me. He doesn’t want to, but he does. Who cares. I have MEAL TICKETS!

Next film is a complicated South African drama about illegal immigration, not from Mexico, but from Zimbabwe! And they have the same ignorant Arizona type reaction;-O Who knew. It’s a bit long for me and I fight sleep, loosing this fight several times. Hey, what’s John Savage doing in South Africa? And he’s playing a priest.

Third film was about a mixed race French girl who comes back to Burkina to find her mother. Seems her father was one of those ‘Doctors With No Trace’ but he went back and got the girl when she was eight and had her raised by his French wife.

Now that he’s dead, the girl, who loves her French family and doesn’t want to hurt them, decides she needs to find her birth mother. An interesting film with an abrupt ending. It’s called Notre Etrangere. At one point in the film I mention to my friend that I envy the girl in the film’s hotel room. My friend is shocked because she thought the room was a dump. (She hasn’t seen mine) When she does see my room she tells me I’m a real trooper but we must get me out of here asap, “OMG, how could you stay here? I couldn’t do it for even one night. This is horrible.”

The lizards like it.

Africa's Islam pt 5

Africa does Muslim different, with more style and swag. It’s pretty hot, or maybe cool. Whatever, it definitely works! Nothing scary about this. Let’s dance! All kinds of things happening in the world and people are having a good time. America has got to get over its paranoia. We are making ourselves nuts andmiserable. It’s like the crazy person seeing the boogie man all the time. Everyone else knows the boogie man does exist but they are out having a good time, shaking their heads at the crazy one as they move right along.

We think they ‘hate our freedom’ and they all want to come to the US. Guess what?

Some people are happy with their own lives. Most people love where they come from.

One young brother told me he spent 6 years in Canada, at school and he couldn’t wait to get back to Ouagadougou (Wa-ga-do-goo) aka Ouaga (Wa-ga).

Many others told me it was a definite NO on coming to the US. I guess not everybody wants to move in with you because you have a nicer house. Some people like their little homes better. After all, it's theirs.

One thing I do find curious, is that all the experts on Africa are anything but Black. You mean NO Black people understand Africa or Africans, not even the ones already here? What’s that about? Some things never change…