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An overripe fruit will eventually fall off its tree

An overripe fruit will eventually fall off its tree 

The 72-minute documentary Burkinabé Rising (2018) by Brazilian-Corean filmmaker Lara Lee is an excellent introduction to Burkina Faso: its turbulent history and its people's rebellious spirit. 


27 years had passed when President Blaise Compaoré was finally chased by his own people from the presidential palace on October 30, 2014. Lara Lee’s documentary shows that the driving forces behind this popular insurrection were mainly young people and artists. Such as the rapper Smockey, a representative of Le Balai Citoyen ( “The Citizens’ Broom”), a protest movement whose brooms refer to its ultimate goal of sweeping the government from power. Or Malika, la slameuse, a young muslim vocal artist who has managed to establish herself in a mostly male dominated field and points to fellow women’s increasing involvement in the protests. 

                               Members of the civic movement "Le balai citoyen" 

Many of these young artists were not even born when Compaoré rose to power by leading a deadly coup against his former battle companion and presidential predecessor Thomas Sankara on October 15, 1987. Yet, it becomes quickly clear that even though Sankara’s government was short-lived (1983-87) his vigorous defense of women’s rights, pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism have not been forgotten. In fact, Burkina Faso’s very name, which replaced Upper Volta in 1984 and means “land of the upright people”, goes back to Sankara’s political endeavour for national identity and pride in a country with over 60 ethnicities. For Rap artist Smockey, whose activist group adopted Sankara as its symbolic patron, their idol represents  “simplicity, modesty, and integrity … a model for anyone aspiring to manage public property” as well as the fight for social justice and inclusive development. Social activist Serge Bayala adds: “Our aim is to implement his [Sankara’s] vision, to make it immortal, to simply make it tangible.” 

Graffiti in Ougadougou

“Our aim is to implement his [Sankara’s] vision, to make it immortal, to simply make it tangible.” 

The movie reveals that even though during the three decades of dictatorship the government tried to systematically erase Sankara’s commitments from collective memory (by for example assassinating dissenting voices such as the investigative journalist Norbert Zongo) it is his legacy that has united Burkinabè youth’s resistance. By its polyphonic narration, camera positioning and renunciation to voice-overs, the documentary succeeds to tell this success story by its participants and not from the perspective of an outsider, which brings about an engaging sense of truthfulness and relatability to the account. 

The documentary’s opening and closing aerial shots of the capital’s austere Sahelian surroundings such as the Sindou Peaks, near Banfora, west of Burkina Faso, beautifully frame this hopeful account of collective resistance. Contextualised in its natural environment, visual artist Mohamed Ouédraogo’s witted prediction that Compaoré’s eventual resignation was as inevitable as an overripe fruit’s fall to the ground seems even more convincing: a nation that has managed to survive in this hostile environment might as well overcome man-made oppression. 

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