The African Film Library of Ouagadougou renews its investments in African film heritage


The African Film Library of Ouagadougou was established in 1989 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of FESPACO on the initiative of African filmmakers who had it in mind since ever 1973 at various professional encounters. Its overall objective is to safeguard Africa’s film and cultural heritage.

 The African Film Library is a governmental institution under the umbrella of FESPACO and an affiliate of the International Federation of Film Archives (IFFA) since 1994.

The objectives are to collect African films as well as any film work about Africa, process, preserve and promote the films collected by making them available for film and audiovisual researchers and professionals for consultation. One purpose is also to make an inventory and catalogue Africa’s film heritage.

Working out the filmography of each African country, its administrators collect African films as well as any film work about Africa. The library makes its catalogue available for film and audiovisual researchers and professionals for consultation.

Forty film prints formed the very first archive base of the film library. It has grown today into a modern centre of film preservation (operational since 1995) where more than one thousand films are processed and stored, including documentaries, fictional films, news, short and feature films from all over Africa.

The filmic archives of the National TV of Burkina were collected, sorted out, restored and stored. About 400 16 mm reels about Burkina Faso’s socio-economic and political history from the 1960s and 1970s, almost abandoned, have been restored in 1998.

Films of the colonial period are as important as they are the only images of Africa during the first half of the 20th century. Twenty of them from the 1920s to the 1950s are stored at the African Film Library.

The film library's collection also includes educational films dating back basically from the 1960s. They explored issues like agriculture, health, civics, and so on. Such films were government-produced and mostly directed to illiterate populations.

The personal films collected are representative enough of African cinematography from Northern to Western Africa, from Eastern to Southern Africa. A significant number of prints were gathered in 1998.

The African Film Library has nearly all of films produced by famous filmmakers including Sembène Ousmane as well as films from countries like Burkina Faso and Gabon.

The remaining of the collection consists of about twenty films from Cuba and a few French and European classic films.

The African Film Library does not have a laboratory but it has the equipment needed for minor restoration work of damaged film prints, physical analysis of prints, repair of perforations, dry cleaning of film reels, for professionals, cine-clubs, etc. The prints are stored in specially designed rooms with temperature varying between 15°c and 20°c and relative humidity rate between 30% and 40%.

A significant material pertaining to African cinema has been gathered. The documentation centre is well-stocked and open to the public. More than 6000 photos, 500 film posters, thousands of press releases, specialized journals, film press kits, and scripts can be consulted at the centre.

The collections at the film library are made available for students, teachers, researchers and film professionals. As part of their studies, a good number of students from Africa, Europe and America visited the documentation centre to see specific films, do some fieldwork or meet some resource persons. Access to the centre is subject to a justified request.

Other plans include:

•Building the library's screening room together with an exhibition platform to host a film and TV programme market, a film museum, etc.
•Strengthening the documentation centre with a data base on African cinema to be made available at the Festival's Web site.
Tel: +226 76602224