FEPACI, the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers marks its 40th anniversary in 2009. Like the FESPACO, the Pan-African Film Festival, which was featured in the 19 March 2009 post, FEPACI, was created in 1969--initially under the name, the Pan-African Union of Filmmakers. Founded in Algiers, Algeria, its objective is to facilitate in the reflection of a politics of development, with a cultural lens and a specifically cinematic focus. According to the former General Secretary, Gaston Kaboré of Burkina Faso (1985-1997), the founders of FEPACI saw the federation "as a means to emphasize to those in the political and cultural arena that it has been through the image that neocolonialism has been able to continue in Africa." During FEPACI conferences African filmmakers meet to discuss, debate and assess the myriad interests, objectives, problems and needs of African cinema.
After a nine-year hiatus, due to internal problems, FEPACI was restructured in 2006 to meet the needs of the 21st century, passing the torch to Seipati Bulane-Hopa of South Africa. While she is the first woman in its history to hold the post, the pan-African filmmaking infrastructure has featured women prominently from its beginnings. Alimata Salambéré and Odette Sanogoh, both from Burkina Faso, were founding members of FESPACO. In my 1997 interview, Kenyan filmmaker Anne Mungai raised concern regarding the domination of men in the upper ranks of the African filmmaking infrastructure. She discussed these issues at the 1989 FEPACI meeting in this way: "FEPACI has always had regional secretaries and they have always been men. Though we are both men and women, each time we come here as filmmakers, the issue of cinema is addressed as though there are just men alone." She recalls that one of the objectives of the historic women's caucus held at the 1991 FESPACO was to give African women a voice.
The 2006 African Film Summit in South Africa showed a different face from the experiences Mungai describes at the 1989 meeting. Women were present everywhere. Their voices were heard, their faces highly visible among the 250 invited delegates. A woman's caucus was held prior to the vote for the new Secretary General in order to choose with a unified voice, a woman for nomination. Seipati Bulane-Hopa was elected with thunderous applause. Some three years later she is satisfied with the contributions that she has made, though she laments that the problems that have crippled FEPACI before she took office continue to exist. In this case one notes, that gender aside, leading an organization of the scope, size and needs such as FEPACI, is a formidable undertaking.
Related link: FEPACI Film Blog