A small landlocked country in West Africa, Burkina Faso is home to a vibrant community of artists, musicians, & engaged citizens who carry on the revolutionary spirit of Thomas Sankara.
Interview with Director/Producer Iara Lee
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
When i got to Burkina Faso I was inspired that everybody seemed to be an activist on the ground. Activism was not restricted to a specific group of political-minded people but the general population kept alive the spirit of African hero, Thomas Sankara, and through music, arts, language, culture, agroecology, were doing their share. Sankara was the former Burkinabè president who was killed in a coup d'état led by Blaise Compoare, who then stayed in power for 27 years. In 2014, a popular uprising succeeded in removing Compoare. Today, Sankara's philosophy is everywhere in Burkina Faso and it made a deep impression on me. I wanted to share that story with the rest of the world, and to show their blossoming and longterm commitment to creative resistance.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
First, because most people in the Western world are not very educated about African continent, much less about Burkina Faso. A lot of people don't even know Burkina Faso is a country! So our film is a great intro and it is a celebration of the positive side of Africa (most of the time Africa is associated with poverty, famine, diseases and negativity) through the power of the people when united.
Imagine that you've lived your entire life under the same dictator. You've never known a different type of government. Then, all of a sudden, a surge of creativity, art, and political resistance sweeps through the country and wipes the slate clean. Would you want to be a part of it?
This was an incredible situation that I think we can learn a lot from. On the one hand, the explosion of creative resistance in Burkina Faso was driven by the local context. But, on the other hand, it has lessons that I think are applicable in many of our countries where we're trying to resist corruption and repression.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
My personal interest lies in universal truths: there is war and oppression because of greed for financial gain, greed for control. But the universal ugly can be combated by universal humanity and solidarity.
So I choose a specific story because I hope that it will raise issues that resonate for people across different times, geographies, cultures. I try to tell a story that has themes that are relatable. So even though Burkinabè Rising takes place in a West African country that a lot of people have never heard of, we can still be inspired by seeing the struggle that took place there against corruption and tyranny. This struggle has universal significance.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I originally went to West Africa because I was working with the group Slow Food International to look at movements defending food sovereignty and traditional forms of agriculture. But with this film, as with almost all of my films, I go to a country that sparks initial curiosity but I never go in with a set script or a pre-determined agenda. When I start exploring, the story evolves organically, as I meet different artists and activists and hear their stories. Then I follow up on new leads and all of a sudden, I amass terabytes of footage and get enough to cut a full length film or two! I think that you will see from the style of the film that it has this sensibility of sort of unfolding organically.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We have been thrilled with the positive feedback about the film. The film is super new and it is already screening at film festivals around the world and has been scheduled to show in over forty countries and we are now in March only! A lot of audience members have said that the film has motivated them to learn more about Burkina Faso and draw connections between resistance in Burkina Faso and their own countries.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Originally, I was concerned that the only people who would really be interested in the film would be viewers who already had a connection to West Africa or who knew something about that part of the world. What's been surprising to me is how many people say that they had never heard of Burkina Faso but that they found the story very applicable to issues they were facing in their own country. That's been really exciting to hear.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We're always trying to get our films out to the widest possible audience. If you're not part of the mainstream distribution system, it's always a challenge to get grassroots stories out to the people who want to see these films. We're excited that We Are Moving Stories is helping filmmakers to do that work.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We are looking for distributors in various different regions of the world. We'd very much like to hear from distribution professionals. We'd like them to help us expand this film's reach. Right now, we've mostly been working with film festivals, cultural festivals, and local activist groups to arrange screenings. We would love to hear from more people of these sorts of people who want to bring the film to their area.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We would like this film to inspire people to be proactive and take action. Oftentimes, people watch a documentary about an issue, perhaps post about it on social media, and then forget about it. With Burkinabè Rising, we hope that people are moved to educate themselves, find like-minded people, and take action in defense of justice, democracy, and human rights.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What role do art and creativity play in political movements to resist injustice and strengthen democracy?
Would you like to add anything else?
The uprising in Burkina Faso owed so much to the contributions of women and the contributions of youth. Those are two things that I always try to highlight. The more I travel to different parts other world, the more I see this same trend hold true and it's something that gives me hope.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I always have lots of projects. Currently, I'm still working on a film that will highlight Slow Food International and the battle for food sovereignty in West Africa. I've also shot footage for a film about Chernobyl 30 years later and its disneyfication, that is in post production stage. I'll be eager to see how these projects unfold. But right now, my focus is really on bringing this amazing story from Burkina Faso to as many viewers as we can.
Interview: March 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIAQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
BURKINABÈ RISING: the art of resistance in Burkina Faso
Director: Iara Lee
Producer: Iara Lee
About the writer, director and producer:
Iara Lee, activist & filmmaker, is the founder of the Cultures of Resistance Network. She collaborates with agitators, educators, artists, and changemakers around the world to build global solidarity through creative resistance and nonviolent action.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): sales agents, distributors, film festival directors, press
Social media handles:
Made in association with: KAMAK Films
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?