You paid tribute to Ethiopia which eventually won the Grand Prix Sembène Ousmane. What signal you see through it?
Listen! I am happy because when we chose Ethiopia in order to honourit, it was based on the Ethiopian films I saw last year and the year before. These films that I saw at Fespaco and Carthage made me understand that Ethiopia is moving. And as these films were retained in the selection, I thought it was an opportunity to pay tribute to Ethiopia because since 3 or 4 years, there really is movement there. When one pays homage to Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, South Africa, they are heavyweights of African cinema. But we decided after these heavyweights, to dedicate the tribute to a country that is not yet confirmed. We will not honour a country that has a great history of cinema but a great story that will come from this cinema. And finally, it’s beautiful because I relied on the tribute to Ethiopia and a jury chaired by Edgar Morin who awarded the first prize to Ethiopia, I find it beautiful. I am happy because it was a very good choice. So I hope that the country will receive a tribute next year, will be sufficiently lively in its production, to also get good prizes. That way, we will create a habit, “countries paid tribute” equal grand prix.
What globally is your assessment of this 19th edition?
I am very happy especially as the great debate that I wanted on the problem of scripts in African cinema was a great success. I find the masterful speech that was made by Idrissa Ouedraogo beautiful, the Moroccan filmmaker who has just had a prize (Editor’s note, Hicham Lasri) was good, Mansour Sora Wade enriched the debate. And every night, every midnight debates were devoted to scripts. I think young people who attended, participated and contributed to this great problem cannot leave home without having something changed and even profoundly changed … On organisational scale, the challenge was also noted. In any case for the 40th anniversary next year, we hope to organise in quite a grandiose way.
The filmmakers leave Khouribga on a hopeful note. But is there hope that policies follow the decisions taken?
African States have to decide in a voluntarist way to help the filmmakers make movies without starting immediately to talk about profitability. There are ten years of investments to make; these are not gifts, I call them investments for the future. It takes ten years of investment on filmmakers so that at the end after we have a filmography that begins to take shape. Afterwards, it is the local, national public which make or do not make cinema live, but it must be given the opportunity to make its cinema live. States that do not understand this decision are not very responsible.
But there is always a problem of infrastructure, facilities and multiplexes for the African public?
Yes ! But when we start to produce and when we see that the public is beginning to appreciate the local production, I stake my life on it that the construction of multiplex would become necessary. Today, it is a disaster, there is no movie theater in our countries. You go to Burkina, there are 6 halls, 2 halls in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire 3 halls.
And in Morocco?
There are 57 screens. This is totally inadequate, and if Morocco itself does not engage immediately, in a volontarist way to help the private sector to build halls by guaranteeing them with banking structures, even the production return backwards. Because there will be no domestic market. I fight for 10 or 15 years for those positions. It is not today that I’ll give up and I want all of Africa to do likewise. You know aside from Egypt and South Africa, it is the total shortage in the film sector. Morocco with 57 that is already fine … But Algeria with 10 halls, Tunisia also 10 halls, that does not make sense.
Morocco manages to produce twenty or thirty films per year. Which countries are following behind?
There are countries ahead of Morocco. There is first Egypt with 35 annual productions, we, we are at 20 or 25, South Africa with 15 to 20 and all that remains of Africa cannot do 15 productions on annual basis.
Are the governments certainly not aware of it?
… They must have this awareness that helping filmmakers is not free aid, it is investment for the future. States which understand this, are going to create a dynamics. Why, they will create it, because, unlike what happens in Europe or the US, here, there is so little that the potential is huge. If African countries do not understand that, I think they are missing out on a great artistic adventure.