Juliet Asante’s big screen directorial debut comes with raised expectations as the film’s trailer even tags Jocelyn Dumas performance as the best of her budding film career so far. All hype of course but I was intrigued by this film which aspired to some level realism lacking in a lot of mainstream Ghanaian cinema.
Silver Rain is set on the streets of Accra and for a while it tries to give us an entree into the life and culture of the Kayayo that litter the streets. Asante presents some level of nuance as we witness the politics that affects them in addition to penury that comes with living hand to mouth in the troughs of Ghana. She employs a documentary style vox pop effect that picks the brain of some citizens who acknowledge the usefulness of the kayaye, who carry around market produce for pocket change, and others who regard them filth lying around waiting to be cleaned up by the government.
There is some poignancy in focusing on the kayaye and the political capital they hold during election season. The party that promises to protect them and keep them on the street gets their vote whilst on the other hand, there is some political expediency in promising to get rid of them. Our director here doesn’t shy away from giving us a feel of life on the streets and the smut of the insides of the market and for a short while she succeeds in getting some of us to mull over the kayaye culture.
We then get personal with Ajoa (Dumas), one the porter girls living hand to mouth on the streets of Accra. She is well liked and well integrated on the streets and her defiance is well admired as stands up for her friend and demands more from a thrifty patron of their services who tries to hustle them of some change.
She is a bit of an irregularity in that regard and you get the sense she is used to a bit more as the camera narrows in on her capturing the solitude and anomaly she is as she reads a book. She regards literacy as more important than money to the snickers of her peers. I suspect Dumas here will be the butt of some jokes not because she gives a bad performance but because she the one Kayaye that will stand a chance of winning a Miss Ghana pageant. There is also the skin tone debacle as she is made to look considerably darker presumably to emphasise the depths of this section of society bringing us to the films transition in tone.
The class stratum in Ghanaian society comes to the fore when Ajoa crosses paths with Bruce (Enyinna Nwigwe) a young man who is a world away from the humble kayaye. He is the wealthy heir to the Timothy family fortunes and the perceived relationship they develop produces friction especially from his Mother, played by Offie Kodjoe, who just wants her son to find a wife she approves of. His mother initially seems like she wants the best for her son and dresses down his girlfriend whom she perceives to be nothing more than a gold digger but with Ajoa in the picture, we realise she may be more interested in her son sticking with the class he belongs.
Bruce’s character presents some hints of depth in that he reflects the marital pressures binding men in what feels like a what progressives may deem a throwback to the 90’s. His mother makes no secret of her desire to see him find a wife and his father (Kofi Bucknor) initially seems like he has an apathetic disposition to his son’s affairs but slowly starts to screw on the pressure and eventually drops the hammer with a marriage ultimatum to his son.
The question, from an audience, may then become: why is marriage so important? It is points like this that bring to the fore the biggest problem with the film – there appears to be so much going on and film isn’t able to nail a definite tone or adopt a single focus. We start the Kayaye culture and politics that comes with it in the midst of an election then we move on to the class disconnect and in the background Bruce has the weight of his parents’ wishes on his shoulders. Then of course we have the relationship between Bruce and Ajoa that is made more complex by Frank (Chumani Pan), Bruce’s close friend.
The film commendably never goes the Telenovela route and presents everyone as quite likeable (save for maybe Bruce’s girlfriend) keeping us neutral. There is a real understated quality to this budding love triangle which commendably projects the bond between Bruce and Frank but like rest of the film it leaves us wanting more.
We see the setups, we see the conflict popping up as we navigate through the story but the execution and resolution left a lot to be desired and the pay off on some of the stakes prove rather limp as the film proves to be more of an opportunity lost. I was really intrigued by what the film was doing with the Kayaye politics, I wanted more on Bruce and his parent’s and the central character deserved more depth when at times she looked like she was just a plot devise, the staging ground for the friction surrounding Bruce.
The film doesn’t exactly make waves on a technical level with the editing proving to be really disjointed disrupting the flow of the film. Some scenes really felt too short almost like teasers and the constant jumping really hindered any real perception of time. Asante employs a lot of close ups which seldom bring inference to the characters and just come of gratuitous in a lot of scenes.
Nevertheless she is still in control and coaxes strong performances from her cast and establishes interesting characters we want to care about but I wanted more development. This film brings to mind something I have been thinking about for a while; a lot of our films may translate well as a mini-series. The trailer talked up Jocelyn Dumas performance but her best work was probably in Shirley Frimpong-Manso’s Adams Apple series which has the benefit of serial story telling to endear audiences to its characters.
Silver Rain isn’t filled with chaff – a lot of what is happening wants to matter, we want it to matter but it just seems to blow by to a limp end. The characters are interesting enough to keep us invested which makes it more disappointing when their potential isn’t fully realised. It would have benefited from a full half hour considering the films running time or maybe just a toning down of the ideas on show. Juliet Asante has potential and looks to tell a very Ghanaian story with significant themes and ideas but ultimately one too many.
By: Delali Adogla-Bessafirstname.lastname@example.org/Ghana