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AfricAvenir Film Distribution - Capitaine Thomas Sankara

Capitaine Thomas Sankara

The portrait, composed exclusively of archival footage, of Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso from 4 August 1983 until his assassination on 15 October 1987, is a tribute to this extraordinary statesman who substantially influenced the history of his country and of the African continent with his fore-sighted reforms and his decidedly anti-imperialistic politics. With this documentary reminding of a Punk manifesto fluctuating from idealism to irony, movie maker Christpoh Cupeline provides us with a holistic overview of the intellectual and political heritage of this atypical head of state, who irritated and upset the established order through his words as well as his actions.

Production Details

Christophe Cuppelin, Switzerland/BF, 104 min., 2012
French with English or German subtitles
Production: Laïka Films, Akka Films, RTS Radio Télévision Suisse   
Producer: Christophe Cupelin, Nicolas Wadimoff, Fayçal Hassairi
Executive Producer: Christophe Cupelin
Cinematography: Caroline Cuénod, Abel Sankara
Editing: Christophe Cupelin
Location Sound Mix: Philippe Ciompi
Sound Editing: Christophe Cupelin, Philippe Ciompi
Sound Design: Philippe Ciompi
Rerecording Sound Mix: Philippe Ciompi
Music: The Ex

Distribution Details

Distribution: Germany
Format: DVD
Language: French with German or English Subtitles
Poster/Pictures: Can be sent digitally
Contact: info(at)africavenir.org

Sales & Distribution other countries: Laïka Films

Full Synopsis

This archival portrait focuses on Sankara’s term as President of Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) from 4 August 1983, date of the beginning of the “sankararist revolution”, until his unsolved murder on 15 October 1987. Four years during which Sankara knew that he wouldn’t have much time, tried to implement and inspire as many reforms as possible, take on as many challenges as possible and sustainably change the mentality of Burkinabès: Abolishment of the minister’s privileges, realization of food security, support of local production, vaccination campaign, expansion of the education system, fight against corruption as well as the advancing desertification and not least the fight for the emancipation of women…

Four years during which he fought against the neo-colonial power relations in the world, tried to end the influence of old colonial power France and demanded at the assembly of the African Union to not pay the national debts because he understood them as colonial debts…

Four restless years full of change which shaped the history of Burkina Faso and of the African continent and ended abruptly with his assassination during the coup of his long-time companion, Blaisé Comparé...

Four years which led to the fact that he still until today inspires activists all over Africa and its Diaspora, because as he said: “You can kill a man but you can’t kill his ideas.”

Press Reviews

„A movie like a straight punch in the face.“ Tribune de Genève

„Brutal and moving.“ Le Monde

„Sankara had the right words, the courage, the simplicity, the integrity and the personality to lend his ideas great weight. He fought for endogenous development and the autonomy of his country facing unbearable external dependencies. A real fascination emanates from this personality, who believed in what he was doing and knew what he was risking. Cupelin turns this into a fascinating portrait (…)“Africultures, Olivier Barlet

„25 years after his unsolved assassination in 1987 this movie makes it possible to see and hear this atypical head of state again who certainly counts to the greatest African personalities of the 20th century.” Voix d’Exils

„Almost a quarter of a century ago, on 15 October 1987, Captain Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, was assassinated at the age of 37. The picture of the political leader as young, good looking, brilliant, intelligent, military hero and guitarist was nearly erased from memory, especially in Europe. Director Christophe Cupelin shows a brutal and moving filmic version of this icon unforgotten in West Africa: Capitaine Thomas Sankara.“ Le Monde, Thomas Sotinel

„Through his meticulous reconstruction of the rarely shown archive materials, Christoph Cupelin presents the biography and the political universe of Thomas Sankara, the atypical revolutionary and head of state.” Télérama

„Christophe Cupelin is turning the tables, taking advantage of the decay of the archive material. The image is decomposing on the screen and the audience slips into the role of a researcher who has to reconstruct the reality from the moving, phantom-like shadows.” Le Monde

„With flamboyance and irony this portrait of Thomas Sankara is a revival of the fate of one of the most important African heads of state of the 20th century who was murdered for his integer and anti-(neo)colonial politics.” SC – Sens Critique

"Un hymne à la gloire de Sankara?", Le Courrier, Mathieu Loewer, 6 septembre 2014

"Requiem pour un mythe africain", La Liberté, Mathieu Loewer, 5 septembre 2014

"Un très beau documentaire", Le Temps, Norbert Creutz, 3 septembre 2014

"Un portrait exceptionnel", L'Express, Raphaël Chevalley, 3 septembre 2014

"Un genevois redonne vie au Capitaine Sankara", Tribune de Genève, Pascal Gavillet, 3 septembre 2014

"Rappelez-vous Thomas Sankara", 20minutes, 3 septembre 2014

"Un recueil d'archives sur Thomas Sankara", Clap.ch, Firouz-Elisabeth Pillet, 2 septembre 2014

"Le film est passionnant", Ciné-Feuilles, Geneviève Praplan, 27 août 2014

"Précédé d’échos élogieux, ce documentaire est en effet à la mesure du personnage atypique qu’il célèbre, icône révolutionnaire anticonformiste qui aurait pu changer à jamais le destin du Burkina Faso. (...) En 90 minutes parfaitement ryth­mées, il retrace le règne éphémère du camarade-président, de 1983 à 1987. (...) Oscillant entre espoir et fatalisme, ambivalent et gagné in fine par une sourde mélancolie, ce remarquable Capitaine Thomas Sankara incite paradoxalement à baisser les bras autant qu’à lever le poing. Et propose par là même une passionnante réflexion politique, en plus d’un nécessaire travail de mémoire – qui reste encore à accomplir au Burkina Faso." Le Courier

"Magnifique hommage rendu à coups d’images d’archives au Che africain, à sa verve (quels discours!), à son amour sincère du peuple, à ses idées progressistes (autogestion alimentaire, libération de la femme, alphabétisation) qu’il paya de son sang. Un docu qui donne envie de crier «Vive la révolution!»."



Festival Selections

  • Festival des Libertés, Bruxelles, Belgium,17 - 26 October 2013
  • 22nd International Film Festival Innsbruck, Austria, 28 May – 2 June 2013
  • Vues d’Afrique, Montréal, Canada, 26 April - 5 May 2013
  • Forum Social Mondial, Tunis, Tunisia 26 - 30 March 2013
  • Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Greece, 15 - 24 March 2013
  • Solothurner Filmtage, Switzerland , 24 - 31 January 2013
  • Journée de Soleure, Switzerland , 24 - 31 January 2013
  • Black Movie, Geneva, Switzerland, 18 - 27 January 2013
  • Festival dei Popoli, Florence , Italy 10 - 17 November 2012
  • DOK Markt, Leipzig, Germany, 29 Oktober- 4 November 2012
  • Doc BsAs, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 18-28 October 2012
  • Festival del Film Locarno, Switzerland, 1 - 11 August 2012
  • Visions du Réel, Nyon, Switzerland, 20-27 April 2012


Audience award Black Movie Festival 2013, Genva, Switzerland


Christophe Cupelin was born 1966 in Geneva. He is 19 when he volunteered to work in Burkina Faso for a Swiss NGO. The camera in his hands he discovers as young adult a country in the midst of revolutionary upheaval. Deeply moved by this impression he decides to devote himself wholeheartedly to filmmaking. After his degree from the École Supérieure d’Art Visuel in 1993, he takes over the program directorate of the Sputnik Cinemas in Geneva and founds the production company Laïka Films.

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