It’s awards season and whilst there is a ton of online banter revolving around the American and British industry awards, let’s give a gripe thought to the Ghanaian awards season.
The 50-member Ghana Movie Academy released their list of nominations for the 2016 movie awards last week. I have seen a good amount of Ghanaian productions this year and I had hoped to give some decent coverage to our industry’s awards process but it turns out I am oblivious to some of the nominations in a number of the nominated categories. Stuff like A Letter From Adam and Imogen Brown I probably should have seen but didn’t, but there are some nominated films here I genuinely did not bother to see.
Films like If Tomorrow Never Comes and Silver Rain feature in prominent categories and some are more deserving than others but I don’t feel like griping. I, however, ask this: How seriously should we take the GMA’s?
I don’t take most film awards structures too seriously. All the major awards ceremonies have their pros and cons. The Oscars are more about politics than anything else and BAFTA’s are a little too British biased, which it should be, but that means it ultimately plays second fiddle to the Oscars. The common denominator when assessing these two major award ceremonies is however quality. Strong films always find themselves in contention on the day of these awards despite the politics, biases and inevitable snubs.
These two awards also go out of their way to sometimes pander to the exceptional productions and directors from other countries outside the traditional film powerhouses but again, the quality stands out. 10 years ago, Crash picked up the best picture nomination, underserving in many eyes, but a strong film nonetheless. I don’t lean towards the Oscar and don’t mistake it for gospel but I trust the product for the most part.
This brings me back to my question: how seriously should we take the GMAs? As the years go by it becomes increasingly clear it is a populist award and maybe we shouldn’t be taking it too seriously simply because it isn’t demanding we do.
For one I don’t subscribe to the Oscar style structure of the awards. To see a category like that of best editing is a little ludicrous – tallest pigmy in the village fare. Furthermore, how many top-notch performances do we have a year? Have we seen a stellar script, let alone five to fill a category? I think of how our awards should be structured and I feel it should lean towards the festival module – think a more open Cannes or Berlin where films of all genres are screened.
- Palme d’Or – Golden Palm
- Grand Prix – Grand Prize of the Festival
- Prix du Jury – Jury Prize
- Palme d’Or du court métrage – Best Short Film
- Prix d’interprétation féminine – Best Actress
- Prix d’interprétation masculine – Best Actor
- Prix de la mise en scène – Best Director
- Prix du scénario – Best Screenplay
As seen above, the basic structure of the Cannes film festival hints at some form of simplicity and shifts focus from the politics of having numerous categories and instead brings to the fore the films. Lord knows Ghana needs to focus on the films and what better way than to have a major festival that culminates with the awarding of excellence in probably 5 or six major categories. Instead, we have to make do with an awards ceremony that all but pays lip service to the cinema. That last bit was a little harsh but our a GMA certainly isn’t doing much for filmmakers. For heaven’s sake, we are giving awards for excellence in visual effects – come on!
I haven’t seen most of the films in contention there and I would rather a festival allowed me to see these films rather than hear about a nomination. No one is going to pick up a copy of Freetown or Imogen Brown just because it scored a nomination. People may, however, move to see it screened following some form of official selection and that is ultimately better for the film than a nomination for best actress.
Heading back to the nominations proper (which you can find here) I can confidently site some snubs, foremost among them, Pieces of Me. Pieces of Me certainly had some strong female leads in Akofa Edjeani and Napo Masheane more deserving than at least a name I see on the list by all subjective and objective inclinations. They may not have submitted their film for consideration though but I doubt that. I also see Juliet Asante’s name missing from the list following some quite ambitious work with Silver Rain. Her absence probably comes at the expense of two names that shouldn’t be on the list – none of my business though.
After almost 800 words I think it’s time we address the elephant in the room – Beasts of no Nation.
Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation picked up 15 nominations in categories ranging from Best picture to best cinematography. I could see this ass-kissery a mile away. Despite my gripes, I am by no means saying Beasts of no Nation isn’t a solid film but we once again find ourselves bending over backwards to leech onto something completely detached from Ghanaian and African cinema. Beasts of No Nation is an inspired by an African story but it is very much an American film with American creative minds and production modules. No Ghanaian film could have unearthed Abraham Attah. No Ghanaian film could have presented him with a role like Agu’s. No Ghanaian film would pay to adapt the source novel. Yet we have Beast of No Nation competing for best picture and Cary Fukunaga vying for the best director – at the expense of Juliet Asante I might add. Farce.
I ask again, how seriously should we be taking the GMA?
As I write this, this anomaly has been called out by a few including Prince David Osei, Eddie Nartey and Yvonne Nelson. There is a lot of chatter about how Ghanaian productions cannot compete with western productions and I call BS on all that but that’s a discussion for another day. Fact is we should be looking to reward Ghanaian films made by Ghanaians.
If we feel the need to step out, there is a whole African continent to look upon but God forbid we exhibit a little Pan Africanism. October 1 sees no love here despite the existence of a category inclined to the African continent. October 1 is one of my films of the year – made in Africa by and African with a true Pan African spirit provoking empathy and thought for our continent but nah – let’s jump on the fanfare bandwagon and dish out nominations to the American production because it stars Ghanaians. This cut me deep.
How seriously should we take the GMAs I ask again? This time I will give a definite answer – as seriously as a baby’s first stumble I reckon.
According to the GMAs, “The Ghana Movie Awards (MAG) Is an event to recognize excellence by annually honouring achievements of Actors, writers, directors, producers, technicians and other personalities in the filmmaking industry of Africa,” if they say so.
This awards ceremony isn’t structured to develop the Ghanaian cinema culture. It’s just another get-together for the celebs I reckon. The money spent here could go into a film festival like I said earlier but we may actually have to watch the films considered for awards. That is the one honour Ghanaian films need but nah – God forbid that.