Critic of Burundi’s Leader May Use ‘Surprise’ Cannes Platform

When the 71st Cannes Film Festival opens in France next month, the jury will include a Burundian songwriter and singer who by her own admission, has nothing to do with films.

“It was a big surprise for me. First of all, I have no connection with that world of cinema. I was surprised that they chose me,” Khadja Nin told VOA’s Central Africa Service.  “This event is one of the biggest in the world and to be part of that prestigious jury is of course for me a great honor in a way.”

Nin does have great connections to the world of music, having won wide acclaim for albums stretching back to the 1990s.  That was likely her ticket to Cannes, where organizers strive to include personalities from the worlds of music and art as well as film.

Nin studied music at an early age, before leaving her home country to go to Europe some 40 years ago. Her albums are a mix of occidental pop music, African and afro-Cuban rhythms.

Criticize Nkurunziza?  Maybe.

Although she thinks the festival isn’t the best place to talk about the politics of Burundi, she would not shy away of speaking about it, if an opportunity arose.

“I have to see how it goes. I have no idea what will happen there. It is my first time in Cannes. Of course, I will take any opportunity to talk about my country and people,” she said.

Burundi has been plagued by deadly political violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully sought a disputed third term in 2015. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled the country.


Nin has been an outspoken critic of Nkurunziza’s regime.

“He decided to go for a third term and that is one thing. The second thing is: In Burundi they still kill, they still torture they still rape and that cannot continue,” said Nin.

She says she won’t stop speaking out until the end of the crisis.

“We will sit down the day that stops. That is our mission. We cannot let these people kill our children, rape our sisters and mothers. That is not possible for us,” Nin said.

“This is my goal. Really my goal. It is a full time job for me, at this moment.”

Other jury members

Other 2018 Cannes jury members include Australian actress and producer Cate Blanchett, Chinese actor Chang Chen, American writer, director, producer Ava DuVernay, French director Robert Guédiguian  and French actress Léa Seydoux, American actress Kristen Stewart, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev.

The 71st Festival de Cannes runs from May 8 to 19.