Africa's largest film festival postponed by pandemic

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In this file photo taken on February 24, 2017, a woman poses in front of a poster for the Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) in Ouagadougou, on the eve of the opening of the festival.

Africa's biggest film festival, which had been scheduled to run in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou from February 27 to March 6, has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou, known by its acronym in French of FESPACO, is an eagerly-awaited showcase held every two years.

Burkina's cabinet on Friday "took the decision to postpone the holding of FESPACO to a later date," government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura told a press conference.

Founded in 1969, FESPACO stipulates that films chosen for competition have to be made by Africans and predominantly produced in Africa.

Its top prize is the coveted Golden Stallion of Yennenga, a beast in Burkinabe mythology.

The internationally-respected festival is closely followed by the US and European movie industries, which scout the event for new films, talent and ideas.

Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in the Sahel, has so far recorded 10,423 Covid-19 cases, of which 120 have been fatal, but like other countries in Africa is struggling with a worrying second wave of the virus.

"Given the health situation, both nationally and internationally, in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be hard to hold FESPACO at the scheduled time," Tamboura said.

"It won't be easy for us to decide (a new date) because this is linked to developments in the health situation," he added.

The Cannes Film Festival in southern France, viewed by many as the most prestigious in the world, has been postponed from May 11-22 to July 6-17, its organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes was cancelled entirely last year for the first time since World War II, with just a small online presentation from its official selection in October.