Thursday, November 12, 2009

The much publicized Ghanaian movie, "The Heart of Men": A review

Majid Michel said "The Heart of Men" was his best movie ever. I agree. I watched the movie just recently and I was impressed. At some point, I was saying, "haha, this movie is freakin awesome!" Frank Rajah Arase's latest movie was introduced to us with a movie website and a trailer that became to the talk of African cinema. I was one of those who lambasted the trailer which looked 'soft-porn' ish and how the production team was just buying publicity so people would watch their 'poor' movie. Well, the publicity stunt worked. I only watched the movie because a few other friends satisfied their curiousity and gave it good reviews. Kudos to Heroes Productions for a great film but shame on them for that trailer.

Frank Rajah Arase is synonymous with what I call the 'Accra movies'. These are the Ghanaian movies set in English, shot mainly in Accra and Takoradi; the Beyonce President's Daughter, Passion of the Soul, Crime to Christ, Pretty Queen, etc films. I've always argued they've been outdone by movies from the stable of Sparrow Productions, the latter whose movies I've spent time to review and publicize on this blog. Personally, Sparrow's movies are better quality, better made and deserved my money. Heroes Productions, I believe "Heart of Men" is their first movie, probably will join my good books if they build on this.

People will criticize me for watching "Heart of men" for the soft-porn scenes. Well, you'll be disappointed, because I had to wait 32 minutes (and countless movie drama) to see anything of that sort. In fact, the trailer just picked scenes that would get Ghanaians (and Africans) boiling, because it doesn't communicate what happens in the movie at all. I think Heroes' did a spectacular job concealing the movie's story. It's an amateur and shameless way to do it, but it worked. That doesn't mean I am applauding the way they did it, they can definitely do better.

I don't rate these Accra movies highly. Especially when you have the usual crew of Majid Michel, Nadia Buari, Jackie Appiah, Yvonne Nelson, John Dumelo, etc, in the same movie, I don't expect much for those films. I'm sorry, but I am talking about their body of work. The whole Beyonce movie euphoria is so yesterday. I must admit that Majid Michel is one of the best actors we have in Ghana now and I am very happy he had a role in Shrley Frimpong-Manso's latest movie, "A Sting in a Tale".

One big plus I give to this movie is the different locations used. They shot scenes in Northern Ghana and Kumasi. If you've followed Ghanaian movies recently, you know if a movie got shot in Kumasi, it's a Twi movie with various Agya Koo related antics. Way to unite Ghana in this movie. Just when you thought they had reconciled the Accra-Kumasi crews, you have this: "Accra is fun you know, each time I come from Kumasi, I just never want to go to Kumasi". Sigh. John Dumelo even spoke some Twi lines, isn't that just super? It was interesting that the language of choice in the Northern Ghana scenes was Twi, I would have wished it was Dagbani or Hausa for a change. Can't blame them though, Twi is spoken all over the country, and arguably it's more widely spoken than English. Talking about English, is it okay for people to be speaking grammatically incorrect English in a Ghanaian English movie? Were they just telling us that it happens or they couldn't bother to edit it?

The sex and romantic scenes were a little bit tacky. Was Jackie Appiah crying or moaning in her scene? Looked like she was trying too hard to carry across an obvious point. Compare that to the famous scene in "the Perfect Picture". I thought we were not supposed to be touching black women's hair. Are we not in the "Good hair" discussion days?

Let's talk about a few things I loved. I loved the work they did with the soundtrack. They had me singing along when Samini's African lady was played in the club scene. "I like the way the girl a praka praka; From West Africa, she blacka blacka; Check the way the girl a rocka; Pull up the truck, she dance like shaka shaka;. The Heart of Men soundtrack by Dela was nice too and they went through the effort to make a music video as well. I thought it was interesting when the ladies were singing "Scrubs". That wasn't a truer statement uttered in the whole movie :-)

I thought some of the quotes were marvelous! Man: "You want to tell me no one has been going in there from time to time?" Young lady: "Going where uncle. Man: "Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. Come here Lmao. "My mum of blessed memory has taught me to wake up for 3am prayers; I've not been able to grow out of it; Do you pray?". Classic. "Is it a phone call or your pants down?". Pants down? not so fast, you'll want to watch this movie.

Concerning the movie's production itself, the video and sound quality was still reminiscent of movies in this stable. Jackie Appiah played two separate character, who happened to be in the same room. Showing off huh? Nice. A few times I couldn't hear the dialogue, I think they were churning the lines a bit too fast and they weren't that audible. There were some really nice twists in the movie, the suspense was there and they passed the major test for new Ghanaian movies, it must be unpredictable. A few times, I was confused about which places the scenes were set - Accra versus Kumasi, etc. The scene at the end of Part 1 was excellent. Just when we thought we had found a great Ghanaian detective, he shows his worst side at the climax. Yes, the movie is in two parts, this is nothing new. Movie automatically falls behind Sparrow's work with a prequel and sequel concurrent release.

We see the worst things that men can do, but I wonder if 'men' hears refers to human beings in general. Because, kai, like the movie showed, some women can get up to some pretty bad things. A few other things caught my attention. Does Ghana have that many policemen who smoke? Ghanaian movies do a great job hiding traffic problems in Accra. The movie covered a whole lot of issues in this movie, which would probably require another blog entry. That's what makes the movie great. Trashy trailer aside, the movie breeds a lot of talking points, features great acting performances, a variety of locations and sounds, and a great story. Kudos Heroes Productions and Frank Rajah Arase. I expect better from y'all from now on.
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