Followers of the Kermode movie reviews and wittertainment would have heard of the well done U film competition launched a couple of weeks ago for amateur or first-time filmmakers. The entries into the film must be no longer than two minutes long and of course have “U” rating material. The U here basically stands for universal. A “U” rated film should be suitable for kids, normaly four years and over. They don’t contain any bad language, serious or crude violence and overt sexual innuendo. Although U films are not necessarily kids fare, the competition brought to mind lack of appropriate child content in our movie industry.
I remember earlier this year when Segun Arinze along with what I believe is Nigeria’s version of our FIPAC, visited Ghana he made some comments about the lack of good African U movies in the Ghanaian and Nigeria movie industry and I think that was a valid point. Considering that we produce next to zero children cartoons. Our entertainment landscape is virtually bereft of material suitable for kids and general family viewing and I agree with him. The average Ghanaian kid who looks indulge in some local cinema fare and ends up feeding on the drivel from Kumawood. The suitable material around is inevitably foreign and a world and a culture too far away for most kids.
Needless to say most of the best U films or rather all of the ones I have seen have come from the white man’s land. There are few things more certain in life than GTV showing the Home Alone series of films during Christmas. Home Alone is good fun and everyone on earth loved Maculay Culkin but truth but that connection that a boy in Philly would feel would be non-existent for a Legon boy and the extent to which a child connects to a film makes a difference.
There was that period in the mid 2000’s where we were hit with the flood of “Aki and Porpor” films which presented us with two young boys (or so we thought) living in societies we were acquainted with, entangling themselves in situations we knew all too well and, when it comes down to it, just being your average troublesome neighbourhood kids. Most of us saw in them kids we may have encountered some time in our childhood and that made watching their bouts of mischief all the more enjoyable as those films were able to cross the hurdle of getting us to relate with the characters on screen. Mr Arinze did a fair bit of complaining but at least his country’s industry had done its fair bit although to the best of my knowledge it pretty much ended there. As for Ghanaian cinema though – nada.
I for one can’t recall ever watching a U film produced by our film industry. It wouldn’t be Ludacris to assert that none have ever been produced even though that in itself is. On that front, the closest I can think of is Papa Lasisi’s Good Bicycle but even that was more of a nostalgia piece for us older peeps. Why I don’t hear any complaints about this unfortunate trend is beyond me.
Money inevitably comes into the equation and the risk-averse producers feel they would not be able to market child stars like they do the more bankable Dumelos and Majeeds of this world. It brings to mind the issues that surfaced when Grace Omaboe complained about the lack of roles for “aged” actors in the industry and some the explanations for that were flimsy at best. Executives and producers should be a tad eager to exploit the positive associations of the virtually untapped family movie brand because it has that rare ability not many films have to efface age, gender, class and cultural differences.
While I’m on this, what are our child actors doing, do we even have any serious child actors? Are producers actively looking to unearth the next big child star since well, ever. Needless to say, the right cinematic vehicles should be in the works before they get the opportunity to flex their acting muscles. Like most things wrong with our movies, I blame the writers. They have someway somehow succeeded in making generic seem exceptional, don’t ask me how.
Save for a few directors, you wouldn’t catch me dead near Ghanaian films but based on the obnoxious trailers I have seen over the years, most of them appear to follow the Venezuelan telenovela module. The romance centred narrative, unnerving melodrama and of course the basic assortment of characters; the guy and girl everyone roots for, the predictable guy or girl standing in the way of their love and let’s not forget the devious mother figure in the background scheming away. In some cases turned up to eleven.
It’s about time screenwriters invested into solid well written child characters and related plots. It is somewhat bizarre, upsetting almost, to see 20 films go by without a sing child I them I mean what kind of society is being portrayed that has no relevant kids or did the pied piper come in without me getting the memo. I’ve seen a number of talented young actors in school and church along the years so the issue of lack of talent shouldn’t even come in. casting executives should be up and doing. The more I think about sadly comes all the way back to the money.
Is it important that we have our film industry churning out some good family films? Yeah. Forget the parents and school and church, of course they teach valuable lessons but the right movie could serve as the medium for the transcendence of valuable life lessons. The young simplistic minds of our young ones are ripe for the cultivation of ideas that serve as the base for development upstanding characters. I remember the message thrown at us in the Lorax which mainly talks to us about hope in little things. Children being exposed to such cinema leads to a unique education through visual perception and the tapping of emotions which are individual and yet at the same time collective to everyone around. They are also given a subtle opening to other worlds and the themes propagated in these mediums are richly pedagogic in nature. For the children, the suitable material can serve as a tool for inducing a socially responsible behaviour in addition to the entertainment factor.
So to the powers that be, more “well done U’s”please .