Africa focus of NOW! artist’s films


We’d like to remind our dearest readers about the video series ART NOW! that has given us portraits of our community’s creative neighbors for nearly 10 years and almost 100 episodes. C-U Blogfidential tends to zero in on the outings that pertain to media personalities, but one skim through the YouTube playlist reveals a diverse pool of individuals and milieus being represented in this invaluable record. A collaboration between the Urbana Public Arts Program and Urbana Public Television, ART NOW! is currently directed by Jason Liggett of UPTV and relies on the off-screen interviewing skills of the city’s public arts coordinator, Rachel Storm. This is a distinction from older shows that featured a host sitting with the subject; as we noticed while watching the profile of documentary producer Bourema “Ibrahim” Ouedraogo first aired in December, the single-person framing device can provide a more intimate scope through which we can focus on the artist’s words and personality. It’s not an oral history yet it allows plenty of space for the artist to involve us in their life experiences and expectations.

According to the highlights of Episode 96, Ouedraogo moved to the United States from Africa in 2010 and lived briefly in Peoria and Bloomington before arriving in Champaign. Skills he learned while performing various on-set and studio roles in his native Burkina Faso helped him transition to a career here, starting with a position at WTVP-TV in Peoria and now working freelance jobs in the upper Midwest. Locally, he has participated in Champaign Movie Makers and Pens to Lens as well as built a relationship with the Independent Media Center, hosting filmmaking workshops and screenings at their downtown Urbana location. Ouedraogo has not lost sight of his heritage, per a biography issued by the IMC, for his personal pieces explore the social norms and struggles he witnesses when returning to west Africa. As well, Burkina Faso is considered the capital of African movie production due in large part to the biennial Panafrican Film and Television Festival held in the capital of Ouagadougou; this celebration is better known as FESPACO after its French-language name. It clearly influences him to this day.

It is not easy to see Ouedraogo’s films apart from the brief clips and photographs shown on ART NOW! He manages several YouTube and Vimeo accounts, populated for the most part by IMC fundraising videos, FESPACO footage, and wedding recordings, but at least we have one example of narrative cinema to share. MÉMORIE DE PAS (MEMORY OF STEP) is a short about a girl attending school in Mali, the massive country bordering Burkina Faso to the north and west, when she flashes back to a visit with her grandmother who teaches her a secret dance that is passed down in the family. This forms an idea in the girl’s mind for her writing assignment. Ouedraogo filmed MÉMORIE DE PAS during a trip home as he did GLASS QUEENS, which he presented last summer at the IMC along with the influential Burkinabé feature YAABA (GRANDMOTHER) from 1989. In the more recent short subject, he observes a group of resourceful women in Burkina Faso who spend time at trash sites – waste is a major issue in many African nations, especially plastic – to help deal with their own poverty and an environmental crisis.

Although there seems to be little else available that we can find about GLASS QUEENS, we hope to hear more about Ouedraogo as he continues growing as an independent producer in his adopted home of Champaign. He will certainly provide a unique perspective on how one tells a story through cinema, let alone the circumstances under which that cinema is created, and our film culture should welcome it. Keep a look out for our new neighbor and his Global Visual Media Studio banner.

~ Jason Pankoke

p.s. The more-than-likely unrelated Idrissa Ouédraogo, one of the best-known Burkina Faso film directors whose acclaimed features (including YAABA) have received international play, passed away a year ago February in Ouagadougou. A New York Times obituary from that time combed through his career while characterizing a body of work that is humanist as it observes the doings of its characters and the changes they face, also noting the late filmmaker had been criticized for not ttaking on overtly political material. Conversely, this essay published by the Toronto International Film Festival fields an argument that Ouédraogo was indeed political in his poetry, doing his part to reclaim agency for the Burkinabé people after the end of French rule through his screen stories and the African film industry he helped to shape.


MEMOIRE DE PAS from Bourema Ouedraogo on Vimeo.

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