Last September, I wrote an article on the story of the Ghanaian movie industry which talked about its recent history as well. Since then, there have been many Ghanaian movies that have come out, some of which I've seen and the industry continues to grow. I've been in a number of good discussions about Ghanaian movies, the latest of which transpired at BarCamp Diaspora. The conversations haven't changed much but the ideas for improvements have been refined and I will be touching on a few in this entry.
Ghanaian movies are starting to gun for awards. Revele Productions' 'Run Baby Run' has been the most successful movie to date while Agony of the Christ picked up a bunch of nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAAs). The AMAA's is organized in Nollywood but judging from the recent nominees and winners, they are committed to awarding movies from all over Africa as Nollywood movies haven't been dominating. So aside Ghanaian movies enjoying massive popularity following the fame that carried Beyonce - The President's Daughter into many homes around the world, they are winning awards as well. Some people argue Sparrow Productions' Perfect Picture is the best Ghanaian movie ever (at least since this century), while others will claim Sparrow Productions' very first movie, Life N Living It is better than that. It's clear Ghanaian movies are improving in quality, visibility, and significance.
Shirley Frimpong-Manso's Sparrow Productions is carrying the torch and setting the bar for quality production. You can see they obviously invest a lot of money into their productions and judging by viewer feedback and appreciation, they should be recouping on their investment. They premiered their movies at the National Theatre when their competitors (Nollywood inclusive) were sending their movies straight to VCD. If Ghanaians see quality, they will pay for it, it didn't matter if they had to pay $20 to see a Ghanaian movie once. Ghanaians don't like mediocrity like we sometimes believe, but we also tend to accept it. Other movie houses have latched onto the movie-theatre idea and we've seen AA Productions do the same for theirs. When Ghanaians go to the Silverbird theater to watch movies, they can choose to watch Ghanaian-made movies. That's a big plus! Ask the South Africans if it's any better there.
If you've been following ads on Ghanaian TV and music videos, it's no surprise we can do movies with quality sound and video. Sparrow's Scorned showed how Ghanaian music and movies could shine together, with Becca recording 'Daa ke daa' as the movie's soundtrack. 'Daa ke daa' has been a huge hit and Scorned has been a success as well. The Perfect Picture soundtrack featured more Ghanaian acts, making use of popular tracks like Asem's Pigaro and introducing us to newer songs/acts like Miss Jane and Souljas Inn. The Perfect Picture was so good I had to blog about it twice - review and soundtrack. The same way Kwaito became even more popular with the success of Tsotsi, Ghanaian music can become bigger if used well with our local movies.
I loved the fact that Jackie Appiah had a role in the Perfect Picture. I was used to seeing her in lower quality Ghanaian movies and it was tough judging her without bias. She stated herself that that production was the best she'd been part of. The next challenge for Sparrow Productions is to draft Agya Koo (Kofi Adu) into a role. They showed they are moving towards incorporating Ghanaian languages with the Amakye Dede soundtrack and a few lines here and there. I doubt Agya Koo would have a major role in a Sparrow movie, maybe he could play a gardener, taxi driver, etc? Maybe an Ashanti Burger who just returned from Germany and owns all the big hotels in town? Sparrow's movies have been criticized as elitist and they should find a way to make a movie which resonates more with Ghanaians.
What happened to Revele Productions? They've been quiet since 'Run Baby Run' though they have been continuing with their TV series like 'Home Sweet Home'. I hope they produce another movie soon, we need more of their stuff. There was also 'No Time to Die' which was good. 'Ananse must die' is the only animated Ghanaian movie I've seen and that was a great effort, and there's no reason we can't see more of those. Are you also wondering what happened to NAFTI? A lot of major Ghanaian actors who were on our screens in the early 2000's are nowhere to be found. These are trained actors, not the audition stars of today who make up the bulk of Ghanaian productions. We must encourage our arts people to be trained and encourage them to be better. Sparrow Productions introduced KSM in a Ghanaian movie and brought back 'Pusher' Adjetey Annan. Adjetey Annan is one of Ghana's best actors and he proved it in his roles.
A lot of top movies these days are based off true stories. This can happen in Ghana too. We ask again? Why hasn't anyone done a movie on the story of Yaa Asantewaa? I hope we are not waiting for international producers to make movies out of popular Ghanaian novels like 'Our Sister Killjoy', etc. We have great storytellers and writers in Ghana and they should partner with our film people to make movies. We need more depth in our scripts. Let's see that Ghanaian science fiction novel come through and its subsequent debut on the big screen. I also want to see movies with stories of strength and triumph and not the same old relationships, two girls fighting over one guy gibberish.
I am also a little concerned about how Ghanaian movie houses can make money. Though one may want to make quality, the product must be affordable. $20 is a little too much to pay to watch a Ghanaian movie. I think Ghanaian movie houses should focus on using the cinemas (revive Rex and Roxy) or use big spaces like the National Theatre, Tech's Great Hall, etc. Those who don't attend the premieres will buy the movie eventually. There is a huge market for Ghanaian movies amongst various communities abroad so we can organize premieres in places in like Maryland, Columbus (Ohio), Alexandria (Virginia), New York, Amsterdam, London, Hamburg, etc. It may cost a little to organize but think of the money they're losing from people watching these movies online for free with no money entering the pockets of the movie producers. The government must step and help fund quality and work to enforce copyright laws.
It's about time we had a movie standards board in Ghana or a way to rate and review movies. If we are able to separate the 5-star movies from the average ones, we'll force our movie producers to do better. It works in Hollywood. Even if some fantastic movies don't score big at the box office for one reason or the other, they manage to get into film festivals and receive other forms of commendation. Ghanaians can sieve through the chaff. When I realised Ghanaian movies were not improving and were feeding me the same stuff, I stopped purchasing them. These days, I only watch movies that are recommended to me. I own all of Sparrow's movies, and will buy quality Ghanaian productions any day.