‘African Oscars' Main Award Goes to Senegalese Filmmaker Alain Gomis

Alain Gomis P

American actor-rapper-slam poet Saul Williams wins the best actor prize at the FESPACO awards in Burkina Faso for his lead role in Gomis' film "Today."

Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis was awarded Africa’s top film honor at the ‘African Oscars’ in Burkina Faso over the weekend, the first time a director from the country has won the prize. 

Gomis' film Tey (Today), a drama about the last 24 hours in the life of a man played by actor-rapper-slam poet Saul Williams, won the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, the grand prize of the 22nd biennial Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO). Wiliams also won the best actor honor for his performance in the film. 

PHOTOS: The Red Carpet Arrivals at Oscars 2013

The president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, handed out the awards at the closing ceremony in capital Ouagadougou's central stadium before a crowd of several thousands, according to reports. 

The Silver Stallion went to Algerian director Djamila Sahraoui's Yema, a Cain and Abel story of brotherly conflict set against the aftermath of the Algerian civil war. 

PHOTOS: The Oscars 2013 Vanity Fair Party

The third-place Bronze Stallion was awarded to another Senegalese director, Moussa Touré, for the film La Pirogue about a group of Senegalese men who take to the sea in a small fishing boat, bound for Europe, in hopes of a better life. 

Mariam Ouedraogo was honored as best actress for her performance in Burkina Faso director Apolline Traore's Moi Zaphira. Ouedraogo plays a destitute young single mother who glimpses a glossy magazine and gets inspired to try to make her daughter into a fashion model so that they can escape their village for a more glamorous life. 

The festival’s special African Diaspora prize was presented to Guadeloupe-born, Paris-educated director Mariette Monpierre for Le Bonheur d'Elza (Elza's Happiness) about a young Parisian woman of Caribbean descent who returns to her birth-island of Guadeloupe in search of the father she has never known.

The award for best first feature film went to co-directors Harri Krisna and Sharvan Anenden from Mauritius. Their drama Les Enfants De Toumaron follows four young Mauritian kids as they struggle to hustle and create a better life for themselves amidst the poverty in the city of Port Louis.

This year’s FESPACO screened 101 works of film and video -- shorts, features, documentaries, TV shows and more.

In addition to critical esteem, the Stallion winners also received cash prizes: about $20,000 for the gold honor, $10,000 for the silver prize, and $5,000 for the bronze award. 

Shortly after the 2013 festival wrapped up, FESPACO organizers announced they would be doubling the cash prizes for the 2015 edition, giving Africa's filmmakers just a little extra incentive to get back to shooting.