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Danny Glover on the Oscars and the Panafrican Film and Television Festival in Burkina Faso

StoryFebruary 26, 2007
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As the entertainment world focuses on the Oscars in Hollywood, we go to Burkina Faso to speak with Danny Glover, who is attending the Panafrican Film and Television Festival — Africa’s most important film festival. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, yes, the Oscars took place last night. The mob drama, The Departed, swept the Academy Awards, winning four Oscars, including best film and best director for Martin Scorsese, who had missed out on five previous occasions. Helen Mirren won for best actor for her portrayal of British Queen Elizabeth. Forest Whitaker won best actor for his role as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Former Vice President Al Gore also took center stage at the awards. An Inconvenient Truth, the film adaptation of his slideshow lecture on global warming, won the Oscars for best documentary. Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson earned best supporting actor for Dreamgirls. Ellen Degeneres hosted the Oscars.

ELLEN DEGENERES: There’s really — you know, I tried to figure it out. There’s no rhyme or reason to who’s going to win, how they figure these things out, because, you know, you can’t — Jennifer Hudson —- Jennifer Hudson here tonight, and look at that. I tell you, Jennifer Hudson was on American Idol. America didn’t vote for her, and yet she is here with an Oscar nomination. That’s amazing. That’s incredible. And then, Al Gore is here. America did vote for him, and then -—

AMY GOODMAN: Academy Award ceremony host Ellen Degeneres. Well, Melissa Etheridge won an Oscar for her song, “I Need to Wake Up,” which she wrote for the film An Inconvenient Truth. The film Dreamgirls was widely expected to win in the best song category.

Well, Danny Glover was one of the stars of Dreamgirls, but he wasn’t at the Oscars in Los Angeles last night. No, he was in Africa in Burkina Faso, attending the biggest and most important film festival in Africa. Danny Glover now joins us on the phone from Ouagadougou. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Danny.

DANNY GLOVER: Hello. How are you doing, Amy?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, first of all, congratulations for the recognition of Dreamgirls and for Jennifer Hudson winning the best supporting actress award.

DANNY GLOVER: I’m really happy for her. It’s really wonderful that she won the award. Certainly her performance is absolutely wonderful in the film.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the significance, before we talk about the African film festival, of Dreamgirls for you?

DANNY GLOVER: Well, Dreamgirls is a musical, which, I guess, touched so many people’s lives. I was on Broadway at the time doing Master Harold and the Boys, a South African play, when Dreamgirls was this big musical that kind of chronicled the music of the ’60s, the late ’50s, the movement of music, of the transition of music and the commodification and commercialization of music. Certainly, black music, which has been a great part of the American cultural dynamic, has now took on another sensibility during this turbulent period of the late ’50s, early ’60s, and bringing a different kind of urgency, but also a different kind of way of promoting music, commercializing music, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, here you are in Africa, and maybe you can continue that theme with the kind of films that you are watching right now. Tell us about this film festival in Burkina Faso and what is being shown now and who is there.

DANNY GLOVER: Well, as you said, the most important film festival on the continent happens every other year, every odd year, in Burkina Faso. This is the 20th anniversary, so you could imagine that it’s been nearly 37 years or 38 years this film festival has been alive. And it’s brought together and encouraged and inspired African filmmakers, particularly since we’re in a former French colony, Burkina Faso. It certainly has been home to filmmakers from the former Francophone countries. But also, what we see now is a greater inclusion, which includes films from South Africa, from Kenya, from other parts of the global parts of Africa, as well. So we see an expansion of this film festival.

The films that we see are stories told by Africans. And I underline that. They’re stories that are told by African directors, African filmmakers. And so, even though — and those are the films in competition. Those films, whether they’re from North Africa or whether they’re from South Africa or right in Burkina Faso, in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, those films are the films that are in competition.

AMY GOODMAN: Looking at one of the pieces in the Mail & Guardian in South Africa, saying South Africa’s Tsotsi last year won Oscar celebrity status, picking up Hollywood’s coveted best foreign language film award. It’s one of two South African entries, among the 20 feature films competing for the FESPACO’s top prize, the Etalon d’Or, or Golden Stallion of Yennenga.

DANNY GLOVER: Yes. Yes. It was, I think, the presence of South Africa, because of its emerging film industry and the fact that the government puts a great deal of emphasis on filmmaking, cultural production as a form of economic development, as well, has put South Africa in a very strategic role. In fact, the chairman of the African Filmmakers Guild is from South Africa. So I think South Africa is very, very strong here, but other film companies and other films are very strong here, as well. But the importance, as I say, and for us who have come here, we have — Louverture Films, my company that I co-founded with Joslyn Barnes, we have a film here that’s not in competition, and that’s Bamako. But it was screened here last night in a special screening established by the Guild of African Directors, as well as the producers — from French producers Arte. And so, it was a very important screening for the festival itself. But there are other films, like I said, in the festival, and those films are competing for the grand prize.

AMY GOODMAN: Danny, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we will link on our website to Bamako, to the conversation we had with you and Joslyn Barnes. Also, Forest Whitaker, one of the few African-American men to win best actor award a the Oscars is on the celebrity host committee with you of this film festival, this most important film festival in Africa that is taking place now in Burkina Faso. Thanks so much for being with us, Danny Glover, joining us from Ouagadougou.

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