Rwandan film 'The Mercy of the Jungle' wins big at Fespaco even as women cry foul of being reduced to'spectators'

“The Mercy of the Jungle”
  • 'The Mercy of the Jungle' directed by Joel Karekezi’s took home the best film award at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco).
  • The film was among 20 others vying for the top Golden Stallion of Yennenga award at the African film festival.
  • In the half century since it was established, Fespaco has never awarded its top prize to a female director.

A Rwandan film has scooped up the best film award at Africa’s top film festival.

On Saturday, 'The Mercy of the Jungle' directed by Joel Karekezi’s took home the best film award at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco).

The film, which was awarded amidst a fierce debate about gender equality and sexual aggression in the continent’s movie industry, was among 20 others vying for the top Golden Stallion of Yennenga award at the African film festival.

Since Fespaco began 50 years ago, no woman has ever won the top prize, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga — a fact that faced uncomfortable scrutiny during the week-long event.

Only four of the films in competition at the festival were directed by women.

“Where are the women?” asked South African actress Xolile Tshabalala, who starred in “Miraculous Weapons” made by Cameroonian director Jean-Pierre Bekolo.

“Can it be that in 50 years, there hasn’t been a single woman capable of telling a great story to win the Fespaco?”

One of the favourites this year was Rafiki by Kenya's Wanuri Kahiu, about a lesbian affair. Samantha Mugatsia however, won the best actress award for her lead role in the banned Kenyan film.

The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned the film last year for "promoting lesbianism".

'The Mercy of the Jungle' is a road movie which focuses on the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo through the eyes of two soldiers lost in the jungle, the film also picked up the best actor award for Belgian Marc Zinga.

Egyptian director Khaled Youssef won second prize for his drama “Karma”, while third prize went to Tunisia’s Ben Hohmound for “Fatwa” about a father who discovers that his dead son had been a jihadist.

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