The handful of peeps that happened upon a couple of my previous blog posts on GH film would have noted my reference to a tier system in Ghanaian cinema. To the even fewer people that may be interested, I want to try and break down the makeup of these supposed tiers. It’s a caveat I try to highlight because most of my gripes only pertain to a section of Ghanaian filmmaking – the topmost tier (like there are more than 5) and I’ll get to that.
The question of Kumawood’s standing comes up when breaking down our film industry. Do they count as part of our film industry? I guess so. Would they be better of focusing more on actual comedy and not filmmaking? Probably but alas we still live in world where Kumawood churns out tons of feature length film so they fall into the lowest category of film in GH. Ridiculously short filming schedules, almost 100% improvised dialogue and scant funding conspire to place our beloved Kumasi based film industry at the bottom of the barrel.
That is not to say there is an absence of earnestness but Kumawood for the most part has a general sense of light-heartedness hovering over it that keeps it from being viewed as anything other than silly. It is a section that lends itself firmly to exploitation viewing and invites audiences to laugh at it in the way it parodies Ghanaian culture and current affairs. I have general disdain for slapstick and seeing as that is the general form humor Kumawood dabbles in devoid of wit and intelligence, I have a disdain for Kumawood. It is 2015. Only Larry, Curly and Moe should be able to get away with largely slapstick fare. Everyone else, including Kumawood, comes off as childish, archaic and asinine.
We move on to the middle tier of Ghanaian film which presents some B-movie exploitation fare with slightly more monetary input than we see in Kumawood. It is marked by largely televisual direction heading straight to video release. We find a lot of well-known actors here and there is the temptation to ask why they are seemingly taking a step down creatively but we know and understand the struggle. Kumawood enjoys to dabble in comic lampooning the mid-tier mostly likes to play around with romantic narratives – “Romancexploitaion” I called it in a previous blog post. I said I detested slapstick, well I detest this overindulgence in romance more. Like a sickness I do. It is a genre interest that has fascinated me and if/when I do carry out my first piece of research work, it will be on our filmmaker’s tame uninventive persistence with the said genre.
The topmost and final tier (yes just three tiers) sees the most injection of money and normally some theatrical treatment. They come with relatively more ambition, craft and creativity. The theatrical runs are important to me because film should be made with the big screen in mind for the most part. I must however note that we have had some direct to video releases that worked around interesting themes so they could also count as top tier films by virtue of the levels of conceptual ambition. I approach films in this tier with reasonably high expectations because I genuinely believe they can and should do better and there is reason to be optimistic despite some of the uninspiring work we see come out from the flag bearers of Ghanaian filmmaking. Romancexploitaion perhaps rears its head here along with some televisual and B-movie elements but progress is being made.
Do you watch Ghanaian films regularly? Do you agree or identify with my demarcation of Ghanaian cinema and does it translate to general sub-Saharan Africa film cultures? I never ask for comments but I really would love to see what some of y’all think.