Located in the city’s posh Ouaga2000 neighbourhood, the theatre cost about 3 million euros to build. It is the brainchild of French businessman Vincent Bollore, whose company owns French premium TV and cinema group Canal Plus. “In the city of Ouagadougou, we lack movie theatres of this calibre,” said Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. “Ouagadougou is the capital of African cinema. We have every intention of keeping it that way,” Kabore said. “It is in our interest to have theatres.”
Ouagadougou will play host to the Pan-African Film and Television Festival, better known as FESPACO, which kicked off on February 25 and winds up March 4 with a red carpet awards ceremony in the city’s football stadium. More than 100,000 people are expected for the 10-day event, held every two years, a year after 33 people were killed and scores injured in an unprecedented jihadist assault in January 2016.
More than 160 movies are screening, including 20 features vying for the top award, the prized Etalon d’Or or Golden Stallion. During the theatre’s unveiling, Kabore hailed the “beautiful tool” of culture. 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 Fièvres (Fevers), by Moroccan director Hicham Ayouch.
The hall also opens at a time when many historic cinemas have shut and when many African cities just simply lack movie theatres. The Canal Plus group is set to open about 50 other movie theatres in francophone countries in Africa where the group operates, said Canal Olympia President Corinne Bach. It is the third hall the group has opened after Douala in Cameroon, Niamey in Niger, and Conakry in Guinea. Despite last year’s attack by a three-man jihadist unit on city hotels and restaurants, the government ruled out cancelling the film 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.