So it turns out I don’t care much for Ghanaian cinema. The sages among us say actions speak louder than words. My actions in the first two quarters of this year have indicated that I have subliminally affirmed Ghanaian cinema as something I can live without. Rebecca is the sole Ghanaian production I’ve seen in 2016 – way off from a year ago when I was probably seeing about two a month. However, throw in a 9-to-5 in 2016 and I begin to question if Ghanaian films are films are actually worth the hassle, let alone money.
“What have you done for me lately” is the classic Eddie Murphy line. My relationship with Ghanaian film has gotten to that point; that point where I think I can ask for something resembling consistent worth – at the very least. People like me will attest to the fact we aren’t getting more from Ghanaian film. A year ago, I was griping about our drab B movie romancexploitation. A year on and things are largely the same. Yes, there were a few attempts at regular dramas which were just fine; Fifi Coleman’s Pieces of Me for example. But the status quo remains as production houses feel more comfortable financing 90 minute telenovelas.
I’ll be the first to say I do not really understand the business of Ghanaian film. Scrutinizing the end product can only tell so much. Yes we see the B movie romances and overly pantomime comedies that belong in the 40s but the question then becomes: why we are seeing them? Is it market research? Are there test screenings that say Ghanaians are overwhelmingly drawn to safe physical comedy? Maybe toeing the same tedious line we’ve seen over the past five years just the easiest and cheapest filmmaking option. The latter is the more probable answer. Our creative minds don’t talk enough about process so definite answers to these questions and more will be hard to come by.
We need our directors talking more about film – anyone who cares about Ghanaian film agrees with that. Whether via text or broadcast medium or forums or Facebook accounts, we need them talking more about film. Such discourse is healthy for the business of film given there is a tie in with marketing. More dialogue on film will also undoubtedly enhance our film culture. If our writers, producers and directors establish channels of communication, between themselves and audiences, that gives more weight to the industry and a better mutual understanding of the workings of the two parties. To the point of marketing, I do believe understanding your target is basic.
Also basic is understanding the fact that multiple target audiences exist in the Ghanaian space regardless of the sizes. Tonally I for one fancy edgy, sardonic, jet black, cynical films. Genre wise I lean towards the crime-ish inclinations. Needless to say, I am not getting served by GH film. How about the more basic film genres; Drama, comedy, thriller and of course romance. They feature in cinemas, the latter more so, but the execution doesn’t appear to be improving and writing is just blah. Take this assessment with a pinch of salt seeing as I have seen just one Ghanaian film all year.
I have seen trailers though and they aren’t exactly calling out to me. Positive expectations are a non-factor because films never come with that intrigue. I am not a trailer person but I like to get a glimpse of what I may spend my money when Ghanaian cinema is concerned. What have you done for me lately? Nothing that will move me to see GH films on a whim. The point about the art of cutting trailers could surface at this point but that is a discussion for another day. Right now I just want my needle moved by at least a solid premise. Rebecca managed to do that along with *crickets*.
Speaking of being sold on premises, what happened to The Cursed Ones? The Nana Obiri-Yeboah directed feature which undoubtedly moved my needle but close to a year from when the film was ready for release, it is yet to hit Ghanaian screens. Even more disappointing is the fact it has seen releases in countries like Germany and England but only God knows why it hasn’t been screened in its home country. Reminds me of why sat to write about the dysfunctional business of Ghanaian film and like most things in this country, it has not changed. Distribution still remains a problem but the operative word of the business of film is business. Maybe it’s just my fault for expecting too much of The Cursed Ones since it is actually tagged as a British production on IMDB.
Truth be told, the market really isn’t crying out for a film like The Curse Ones, a poignant drama ostensibly exploring witchcraft accusation vis a vis religion and the societal patriachy. No market does really. That said, there should be a comfortable space for films of that come without the glitz and glamour the GH showbiz media likes to fixate on. Have a film star Yvonne Nelson and the bloggers will be on blast. Think of a film like Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, easily the best African film I saw last year and the finest Nigerian film I’ve ever seen but it just flashed through Ghanaian theatres with no fanfare.
GH cinema hasn’t done much for me lately but you know what I would like; one film in the mold of October 1 each year in that, it ticks the boxes of having indigenous creative talent, telling an original Nigerian (and by extension African) story and simply adopting a refreshing tone. The only other Ghanaian film I’ve seen this year was a short, 3 Nights Ago which speaks to potential and invention that could provide that satisfying film a year but we wait to see how the creative talents behind it translate to feature length. As at now, i can’t say I’ll be seeing a Ghanaian film anytime soon. I definitely wont be seeing any romance. Give me a crime drama set in Bukom and maybe we’ll start talking again.
By: Delali Adogla-Bessafirstname.lastname@example.org/Ghana