This chapter presents the historical background for filmmaking in the West African state of Burkina Faso since independence from France in 1960. Although one of the world's poorest countries, Burkina Faso is often referred to as “Africa's Hollywood” because of a string of governmental initiatives to sustain not only Burkinabè but also African cinema at large – such as the film festival FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou). Almost all films produced are, however, funded by international – mostly French – sources; only very few of these films are shown on the country's domestic screens; many of them address Pan-African or regional rather than strictly Burkinabè issues; and most of the country's filmmakers live in Paris. The chapter discusses the applicability of the very concept of national cinema in this context but argues that it is indeed relevant to speak of a national Burkinabè cinema, partly because of the way Burkina Faso brands itself as a leading African film nation, but primarily because of the social commentary which is at the heart of the majority of these films (in a continuation of the traditional griot function), and the ‘banal aboutness’ with which they represent the country and its people.
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