WHY SETTLE FOR JUST ROMANCE?

It has been a bit of an ordeal trying to give face to Ghanaian cinema. Most films struggle to be decent, some don’t even try but the thing that bugs me the most is our fixation with romance. One look at the Best picture nominees from last year’s industry says it all;

  • Why Should I Get Married – Desmond Blackmore
  • Love or Something Like That – Ken Attoh, Joselyn Dumas & Shirley Frimpong Manso
  • Bachelors – Sallam Abdul
  • Single, Married & Complicated – Yvonne Nelson
  • Devil in a Dress – Kafui Danku
  • Shattered Romance – Juliet Ibrahim
  • Double Cross – D.R Kuffour & Ama K. Abebrese
  • When Love Comes Around – Zynnell Zuh
  • Family Album – Hajia Hawa Meizongo
  • If You Were Mine – Kobi Bartel

I have nothing against the romance genre and I don’t mind seeing a couple of such films but I do confess it just doesn’t do it for me which is okay, we are all entitled to our predilections. The thing is when almost every theatre release has some romantic inclinations it becomes a tad tiresome and just turns me off. I didn’t really keep track last year but it sure felt like it and when I have choice between second viewing of Snowpiercer or Guardians of the Galaxy and a Ghanaian romance that has an 80% chance of sucking ass I invariably went for the former like I did last year and can I really be blamed?

The immoderation of love stories is one of the reasons I kind of gave up on Ghanaian cinema last year like a New Year resolution to lose some weight and it doesn’t help that the few I saw were almost always lacking in substance and one dimensional, populated by completely un-relatable characters, riddled with clichés and stereotypes, asinine contrivances, pornographic innuendoes and then there is the mundane Telenovela template they operate on. All these problems are on the script and narrative level backed by some directors executing their perverse misogynistic tendencies with max effort going into cleavage and butt shots that would bring tears of elation to Michael Bay’s eyes. Oh! Let’s not forget the woeful attempts to shoe horn moments of humor and the annoying shift in score which nudges you like “wait for it, wait for it… There it is! Now laugh” – more like gag in disgust. To be fair the bit about tonally misbalancing humor happens in a lot of Ghanaian films.

I feel like this is a problem and maybe we could look at it as part of the evolution of Ghanaian cinema and we may just look back on it as our exploitation era but the truth is there is so much potential for very compelling dramas, intelligent satire and some primeval crime stories and we shouldn’t just settle as a cinematic culture. We have terrific authors whose work may be begging for a director’s execution of vision on the big screen or maybe not since chances are The Strange Man may be ruined by some inept direction and scripting. The point still holds though and I should be able to walk to the mall and have my pick of dramas, thrillers, Sci-Fi (I can hear the laughs and maybe I’m pushing it or am I?) and even more radical and nuanced takes on film romances.

A little more ambition from writers and directors will not be remiss and we do see some attempts, hits and (a lot more) misses, by some and all we need now is that we build on them. Shirley Frimpong-Manso seems like the go-to cliché when talking up Ghanaian directors and she has done her bit with very good films. I enjoyed like 6 hours to Christmas and Life and Living It but she did drop a couple of dud last year in my opinion. I have not seen Love or Something Like That though. Shirley has tasty looking drama called Grey Dawn coming out in a couple of weeks and it looks good with some feisty and chewy performances from her cast and I will be going in with high expectations. Pascal Aka also has Double Cross coming out and I don’t have particular high expectations for it but the film has refreshing plot per the state of affairs and it will be getting my money too although it is labeled a romantic thriller.

As for the mainstream romances, I think I’ll just save my 20 cedis or see something else. I really want to take Ghanaian cinema seriously but I will not be part of rewarding the industries lack of invention and funding the actors’ lack of range which is another thing to whine about. How do the actors feel about staring in such movies over and over again? Is it just about the pay check or do they sit up and say I want to challenge myself consistently? Let’s see how things pan out and mid-year, we’ll see if things have changed but my cynicism says otherwise.

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