Sunday, August 23, 2009

Promoting Ghanaian Movies: The Role of Culture

I consider it a big blow to our national pride whenever I watch a Ghanaian movie (the Accra/Takoradi based movies especially) and find nothing uniquely Ghanaian about it. From the title of the movie to the names of the characters and even the storyline, there’s very little to distinguish some Ghanaian movies from any other movie. The movie ‘Beyonce’ is a case in point. Not a bad movie in terms of quality but would it have lost its glimmer if it was called ‘Abena’ for instance? Also names of the main characters include Beyonce, Ciara and Raj. Now correct me if I’m mistaken but these names are not exactly what you would refer to as indigenous Ghanaian names. Not just that but also names of famous musicians as is the case with Beyonce and Ciara. After the Beyonce experience I thought, ‘this is just a flash in the pan.’ Sadly, I was wrong. For not long after that came ‘Princess Tyra’ and then I thought, ‘Okay, what’s going on here?’ As if that was not enough, ‘Royal Battle’ came along and astonishingly, one of the characters was called ‘Rihanna’. So you can say by the time ‘Shakira’ was premiered a couple of weeks ago, I had already lost all hope. In fact right now, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of ‘Keri Hilson’ and can you blame me?

The Agyaa Koo and Kyeiwaa type movies, although a lot richer in terms of local content tend to place too much emphasis on comedy and witchcraft. The storylines are also practically non-existent especially with the scripts usually left to the actors to conjure. Some may argue that such movies are much sought after and hence make a lot of sales locally. That may be the case but we need to ask ourselves if this is good enough in our quest to build a vibrant film industry. In a world where globalization is fast taking root, shouldn’t we be making movies which can stand comparison to the best productions worldwide? Watching a movie for two solid hours, learning nothing from it and then being implored to watch out for part two, or in the case of Kyeiwaa, part thirteen is not my idea of an ideal movie. Director of ‘The Perfect Picture’, Shirley Frimpong Manso, even though in a different league compared to her peers, admits that she’s always learning and seeking avenues to improve upon her skills. This is the sort of attitude other movie makers should adopt in order to inject more life into the industry.

Hip-life sensation, Sarkodie, hit the nail right on the head in a recent interview with Joy FM Super Morning Show Host, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, when he observed that the failure of Ghanaian productions to permeate foreign markets was due mainly to one missing yet vital ingredient: culture. In other words, the ability to recognize a Ghanaian product can be a cumbersome task at times. Music suffers from a similar fate but I would have to put it on the backburner for the time being since it requires a full article on its own. Culture is one area where I really admire the Nigerians. Nollywood movies are almost always laced with a significant dose of Naija culture. I’m not saying they are a hundred percent when it comes to flaunting their culture but the fact is, compared to Ghana, Nigeria is miles ahead in terms of global reach and that is due primarily to the good use they make of their culture. The Nigerian accent for instance is easily recognizable.

So what then is the way forward? For starters, it wouldn’t hurt if we started taking our culture more seriously. We need to ask ourselves, what makes us unique as Ghanaians? We need to identify those positive factors which define our people as a whole and incorporate them into our movie industry. The Nigerians aren’t flooding our markets with their movies because they have better marketers than we do, but rather because aside the quality, their productions are infused with a lot of their culture.
Take weddings as an example. I have observed that many Ghanaian movies tend to portray church or Christian weddings with western style apparel such as suits and gowns as the attires of choice. Nollywood movies on the other hand tend to place more emphasis on traditional wedding ceremonies with colourful traditional apparel and of course the singing, drumming and dancing. It’s not by mere coincidence too that many Ghanaians are often heard using common Igbo phrases such as ‘chineke me’ (oh my God) and ‘tufiakwa’ (God forbid) to express themselves. I would be pleasantly surprised if Nigerians use ‘Akwaaba’ in welcoming visitors back in Naija. Copying other cultures is not bad per se, but a lot of caution must be exercised when copying so that we don’t copy the negative or superfluous aspects of other cultures. Some of our positive cultural values such as respect for the elderly, hard work and hospitality should be incorporated into our movies as a matter of urgency. We could even make use of some publications by Ghanaian writers. The Nigerians did it with Chinua Achebe’s ’Things Fall Apart’ and we can equally do the same with Amu Djoleto’s ‘Money Galore’ for instance, which is a satire of Ghana’s political history.

We need to start taking pride in what we’ve got. We have a beautiful country filled with so much potential which can be harnessed to provide a much needed boost for our movie industry. We should be willing to learn the latest trends since we are living in an increasingly globalizing world where innovations abound. As we embrace such innovations, let us however remember to spare a thought for our rich culture. I believe these two parameters must go hand in hand to ensure that Ghana receives the needed recognition and who knows, an Academy Award might be in the offing. There’s no harm in trying is there?


This article was written by LSG Staff Writer Masahoud Cudjoe.

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Kudos to the author! You hit the nail right on the head. My hope is that,this gets to the right people and every eye that reads this and have something to do with the industry takes action now! I have always wondered why we have westernized names as characters, titles and such. Dont even get me started on the fake accents. I want to believe its complex inferiority but i digress.

Abena Opokua said...

You hit the nail right on the head.. In fact you did it so many times oh. good good good