Ezra, a feature film by France-based Nigeria-born Newton Aduaka, won the Etalon D'or de Yennenga for best feature film at the 20th edition of Fespaco. This Pan African Film and Television Festival took place in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in March 2007. This was the third time a film from 'Anglophone' Africa grabbed the festival's most prestigious award after Ghanaian Kwa Ansah's Heritage Africa and South African Zola Maseko's Drum in 2005. Thus only three times non-Francophone African films won Fespaco's top film award since its foundation in 1972.
Though touted as a 'Nigerian' film, Ezra is not modelled on the famous 'Nollywood' formula that thrives on issues like witchcraft, wealth, and the power of God over Satan. Ezra is the story of a seven-year-old boy kidnapped by rebels while on the way to school, who turns into a vicious soldier and seeks redemption after the atrocities he visits on hapless people and witnesses in the eleven-year-long Sierra Leonean civil war. Under the influence of drugs, Ezra attacks his village and kills his own family.
The script is by Aduaka and French national Alain-Michel Blanc. The movie was shot on celluloid with funding from France. In relation to this, Fespaco has been accused of discriminating against Nigerian movies, which are usually shot on video. Ezra is more French than Nigerian, just like Funeral, a short movie by Aduaka from 2002 which was commissioned by the Cannes Film Festival. Aduaka is not just another African filmmaker, Fespaco having declared his film Rage Best First Work in 2001 and On the edge having won Best Short Film award in 1999. Otherwise, more films by French speakers than their English counterparts received awards at Fespaco 2007. They included Cameroonian Jean-Pierre Bekolo's Saignantes, Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Daratt, Moroccan Rhalib Jawad's El Ejido, the law of profit, and Haitian Arnold Antonin's Does the president have AIDS.
Ogova Ondego is a Nairobi-based arts critic, and the publisher of ArtMatters.Info