Kaboré, Jean-Marie Gaston

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KABORÉ, Jean-Marie Gaston

Nationality: Burkinabe. Born: Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, 23 April 1951. Education: Primary school in Ouagadougou; secondary education in boarding school near Bobo Dioulasso; undergraduate studies in history at the Centre d'Etudes Supérieures d'Histoire d'Ouagadougou, 1970–1972; received Master of Arts degree in history at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1974; studied film at the Ecole Supérieure d'Etudes Cinématographiques, Paris, 1974–1976. Career: Returned to Burkina Faso and directed the Centre National du Cinéma, 1977–1981; taught at the Institut Africain d'Education Cinématographique, 1977–1988; General Secretary of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers, 1985–1997; served as official jury member at Cannes Festival, 1995. Awards: Etalon de Yennega, Grand Prize for best feature film, FESPACO (Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou), for Buud Yam, 1997.

Films as Director:


Je reviens de Bokin (I Come from Bokin)


Stockez et conservez les grains (Store and Conserve the Grain)


Regard sur le VIème FESPACO (A Look at the 6th FESPACO)


Utilisation des énergies nouvelles en milieu rural (The Use of New Energy in Rural Areas)


Wend Kuuni (God's Gift)


Propos sur le cinéma (Reflections on Cinema)


Zan Boko (Homeland)


Rabi (Rabi)


Lumiere et Compagnie (Lumiere and Company) (co-d)


Buud Yam


By KABORÉ: articles—

"The African Cinema in Crisis," in The UNESCO Courier, July-August 1995.

"Gaston Kaboré, Etalon de Yennega 1997," interview with Mamoune Faye, in Le Soleil (Dakar), 8 March 1997.

"La memoire, la nature, et le hasard," interview with A. Speciale, in Ecrans d'Afrique, vol. 6 no. 19, 1997.

On KABORÉ: books—

Pfaff, Françoise, Twenty-five Black African Filmmakers, New York, 1988.

Malkmus, Lizbeth, and Roy Armes, Arab and African Film Making, London, 1991.

Diawara, Manthia, African Cinema: Politics and Culture, Bloomington, 1992.

Shiri, Keith, Directory of African Film-Makers and Films, Westport, Connecticut, 1992.

Ukadike, Nwachuku Frank, Black African Cinema, Berkeley, 1994.

Russel, Sharon, Guide to African Cinema, Westport, Connecticut, 1998.

On KABORÉ: articles—

Amie Williams, "Zan Boko," in African Arts, vol. 23, no. 2, April 1990.

Gadjigo, Samba, "Zan Boko," in Research in African Literatures, vol. 23, no. 4, Winter 1992.

Andrade-Watkins, Claire, "Wend Kuuni," in American HistoricalReview, vol. 79, no. 4, October 1992.

Andrade-Watkins, Claire, "Zan Boko" in Historical Review, vol. 97, no. 4, October 1992.

Pfaff, Françoise, "Africa from Within: The Films of Gaston Kaboré and Idrissa Ouédraogo as Anthropological Sources," in AfricanExperiences of Cinema, edited by Imruh Bakari and Mbye B. Cham, London, 1996.

Chirol, Marie-Magdeleine, "The Missing Narrative in Wend Kuuni," in African Cinema: Postcolonial and Feminist Readings, edited by Kenneth Harrow, Trenton, 1999.

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Gaston Kaboré is one of the leaders of a movement in African cinema which aims, in his words, "to root African cinema in African soil." Kaboré uses indigenous language as a medium of expression, and borrows techniques from Africa's heritage of oral storytelling to craft his narratives. Like his compatriot Idrissa Ouedraogo, Kaboré focuses on the concerns of men and women in rural Burkina Faso. His most celebrated works to date are Wend Kuuni, Zan Boko, and Buud Yam. Wend Kuuni (God's Gift) takes place in pre-colonial Africa, during the reign of the Mossi Empire. At the beginning of the film, a woman is told that her husband, a hunter, is missing and presumed dead. According to tradition, she must remarry. Instead, she chooses to escape with her son. Her fate is left a mystery until her son, Wend Kuuni, regains his speech, which he loses after witnessing his mother's tragic death. A story punctuated by silence, Wend Kuuni emphasizes images over words. Until the moment when Wend Kuuni speaks, the viewer observes the daily routines and rhythms of the family who has adopted him. Kaboré's depiction of the beauty and tranquility of a village before the arrival of Europeans is stunning. He does not, however, glorify tradition. Although Wend Kuuni's new sister, Pongneré, prefers to follow him into the fields, women are relegated to the domestic sphere. Villagers shun Wend Kuuni's mother because she refuses to remarry. Kaboré beautifully and delicately provides the viewer with an African perspective on the intricacies of rural life in Burkina Faso. Wend Kuuni's story is continued in Buud Yam. Here, Kaboré artfully expresses his affection for his thoughtful, complex characters.

Kaboré's Zan Boko (Homeland) also focuses on the plight of village dwellers in Burkina Faso. In this case, he reveals how contemporary government policies privilege the city's economy over the rural population's concerns. As the urban sphere constantly expands, villages are wiped out. Tinga, a farmer for whom the land is linked to his ancestral heritage, refuses to sell his property to urban developers. His new urban neighbor, an upper class, French-speaking businessman, trumpets city development and disdains tradition. The camera concentrates on the border between Tinga's land and the growing city sprawl, and lingers on an object or scene, provoking aesthetic and intellectual contemplation. For example, the craftsmanship needed to construct Tinga's traditional roof, depicted in a series of long takes, gathers relevance in later scenes in which Tinga's urban neighbors remark that the home would be "a good place for a pool." The neighbors, who consume European beer and American soda, do not appreciate Tinga's art, nor his right to develop according to his own convictions. This story parallels the predicament of a city journalist, Yabre, who is suspended for independently investigating the government's misappropriation of national food subsidies. At the film's culmination, a village musician laments, "Our land is dead, killed by the big city. Our ancestors are without a home. The monster has triumphed." The audience is left to contemplate societies whose intimate connections to the land are destroyed by ambitious, Westernized urban developers.

—Ellie Higgins