Film is a form of entertainment that enacts a story by sound and a sequence of images giving the illusion of continuous movement. Many countries have over the course of history perfected the art of filmmaking so much so that a thriving industry has been carved out of it.
Countries such as America and Britain have used film to shape the beliefs or way of life of other country’s nationals especially the not too industrialized countries of which Ghana is part of.
For good or for bad these countries have sought to keep in the consciousness of their citizens happenings of a certain era through film. This practice affords the younger generation an opportunity to know about the exploits of certain individuals, unit or organization as well as refreshing the memories of the elderly who might have witnessed such happenings.
It is also not strange to come across films which are tagged as “true stories” whiles others are labeled as fiction. A mark of a good film should have certain elements such as good casting, nice scenery, well written script, appropriate costuming, good shots, compelling story, professional editing, good acting and relevant sound among others.
In the film world when a movie does so well by way of the enthusiasm it generates as well as the units sold, it is referred to as a box office hit and that film is given acclaimed recognition when it scoops an “Oscar award”.
Over the years I have been fascinated with certain movies because of one peculiar reason or the other and I reckon our Ghanaian filmmakers can learn a thing or two from other filmmakers and produce films which serve as reference material.
In “Bulletproof Gangster” based on a true life story and set in Cleveland in the 1970’s chief character, Danny Green rises from poverty to stake a claim to the wealth in the country amidst risk to himself and family as most of the businesses of that era were controlled by mafia bosses. In short, Danny and his crew form their own unit and start taking out the old bosses till an assassin of great repute is hired by the last remaining boss to kill Danny.
The next movie “Le San Des Templiers” or “the Knights Templers” is a movie about the most villainous of English Monarchs. England in 1216, had been under the reign of King John for 16 years but amid punitive taxes, sleeping with the wives of Barons and general cruelty to his own people, the Barons caused a rebellion and for 3 years there was huge casualty on both sides and a stalemate till specially skilled men known as the “Knight Templers” joined the Barons to defeat the King’s men.
He was allowed to stay on the throne on condition that he signed the “Magna Carta” which entailed that the King will ‘uphold the rights and privileges of all free men but ultimately limit the powers of the monarch’. He signed it but history will record that John invited Dutch mercenaries to kill all those who opposed him but fate was not on his side as on the 15th of June 1215, King John died of dysentery whiles fleeing for his life and his treasure never recovered.
In “Hitler, the Rise of Evil”, the fascination was with the fact he had been in prison at Landsberg in April 1924 for plotting schemes to gain power. Eventually it was these schemes which will cause Hitler to become the ultimate leader of Germany. His ruthlessness was pervasive as he dealt with his opposers by imprisoning them or having them killed. The film also touched on his secret love for his niece causing him to prevent her from getting too close to any man leading to the poor girl killing herself in her room.
Whiles most films are about people this next movie titled “Secretariat” tells the story of a young woman’s quest to continue the legacy of her ailing father. The business is horse rearing and racing, and amid all the tough sacrifices such as leaving her family in the city and coming to the country side and entering the horse races with the incorrigible and irrepressible “secretariat”. The horse would reward her new owner when she won her races and set new records in the process. It is a film the whole family can enjoy because of the core storyline and the apt execution.
One of Africa’s most controversial leaders, Idi Amin Dada’s life and times is featured in “The Last King of Scotland”; you might be wondering why an African will be associated with white Scotland. Well it is because of Amin’s insatiable appetite for anything Scottish. Whiles many Ugandans felt the film was too light hearted it nonetheless captures a huge chunk of the happenings of that era including the mass deportation of Asians, the arbitrary killings of opposers to the whimsical spending of the president, the mismanagement of the economy, the many sexual escapades, the general retardation of the Ugandan society and finally the fleeing of Amin to Saudi Arabia after being chased away by Tanzanian forces.
One movie which held great fascination is the recently released and highly acclaimed “the King’s Speech” set in the era of King George, it tells the story of his second son, the Duke of Yorke, Prince Arthur Fredrick George. Frederick had been a stammerer since being young but was still required to give occasional speeches much to his discomfort till his wife discovered an unorthodox doctor whose techniques proved effective in helping Frederick overcome his inhibition much to the happiness of the nation.
Back home in Africa the rest of the world sees the continent as a place to get natural resources at little or no cost to feed their monstrous industries, a place of poverty, filth, disease, witchcraft and war. But instead of filmmakers creating films to dispel these perceptions, the display of sensitive body parts such as breasts, thighs, buttocks and sometimes genitals in movies seems to be the new craze. It becomes disheartening when Ghanaian filmmakers who ought to know better reinforce such negativity in their movies when there are other good stories they could tell of the country.
Stories should be told of the exploits of individuals, groups or organizations whiles films about wicked in-laws, ritual money and ghost haunting people should be exiting our screens. It will be refreshing when our filmmakers tell the tales of boxing legend Azumah Nelson, 3 time African footballer of the year Abedi Ayew Pele, the marital union of Nkrumah and Fathia, the life and times of prime minister K.A Busia, how residential settlement Fadama became known as Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the famine of 1983.
It will also be intriguing to have films on the battles fought between the various states and groupings such as the Asantes and Anlos, the Ga’s and Akyems, the Dagomba’s and Fafra’s etc.
It is true that Ghana has a rich movie history and this is evident in the number of Cinema centers which were operational during the golden era where cinemas such as “Orion Cinema”, “Roxy cinema”, “Sid Theater”, “Opera Square”, “Plaza Cinema” as well “Nester Cinema” were hot spots but unfortunately most of such centers have been converted into church halls.
In the 80’s and 90’s the film scene was quite bubbly with relative organization as well as emergence of crack actors and actresses such as Mcjordan Amartey, Grace Omaboe, Sheila Nortey, Victor Lutrodth, Grace Nortey, Fred Amugi, Alfred Armah, Omar Sheriff Captan, William Addo and “Daavi” whose various roles in movies brought such joy to the hearts of Ghanaians much to the dismay of our cousins, the Nigerians.
Quite earlier on filmmaker extraordinaire, Kwaw Ansah stunned the world with his epic movies “Heritage Africa” and “Love brewed in the African Pot” which turned the movie world’s eye onto Ghana. With crisp acting, compelling stories, superb shots and appropriate music these movies went on to win awards at film festivals including FESPACO in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou. In recent years however Ansah has embarked on a new project titled the “Good old Days” which so far has rolled out 3 movies namely the “Love of AA” tackling the age old Andani and Abudu conflict. This was followed by “Papa Lasisi good Bicycle” which tells the story of a savvy Nigerian businessman whiles the third “Suffering to Loose” deals with the inheritance issues which arises when men usually die leaving behind wife and children without a will.
Whiles there is still a lot of substandard movies around and shoddy filmmakers parading, there is need to give thumbs up to those who are making the effort to provide quality entertainment despite the many challenges they face. Names which easily come to mind include Shirley Frimpong Manso of Sparrows production, Abdul Salam Mumuni of Venus Films, Roger Quartey of Roger Q productions, Leila Djansi of Turning point pictures as well as Jones Agyemang of JA films.
Shirley for instance is making it big thanks to local music she uses in her film as evident in the highly acclaimed “Perfect picture” and the local fabrics she used in the 10 chapter series “Adams Apple”. A new generation of actors and actresses namely John Dumelo, Jackie Appiah, Nadia Buari, Yvonne Nelson, Majid Machel have come through the ranks all making Ghana’s movie industry vibrant again as has been Leila Djansi’s stunning productions “I Sing of a Well”, “Sinking Sands” and “Ties that Bind” resulting in the movies as well as actors and actresses scoping awards at the African Movies Awards (AMAA).
New entrant Yvonne ‘She’ Ohene Djan makes a grand entry with “Kweiba” which tells the story of a strong bond between father and daughter till she finds a lover. Featuring KKD the finest, David Dontoh as well as Emelia Brobbey and shot on location in the Greater Accra, Central and Eastern regions, this film gives hope that when filmmakers put their minds to tell relevant stories it will be both entertaining and enlightening. In all of these, executive producers should be willing to finance such well researched movies just as they are ever ready to pump huge sums into the sexually biased ones.