Monday, January 25, 2010

Sparrow Productions' A Sting In A Tale' - a discussion and review


"I don't believe in ghost stories, but I like this one". I could not hide my excitement when I heard that Sparrow Productions had a fourth movie out called 'A Sting In A Tale'. Following the success of Life and Living it, Scorned, and The Perfect Picture, I was hoping for the best. People had been complaining that Shirley Frimpong-Manso's movies were stories of romantic relationships amongst urban/rich class Ghanaians. So she decided to do something different, and I really appreciated this. The results have been mixed, more people thought "A Sting In A Tale" was the worst of her movies. Some loved the story, others just loved the end, others didn't like how the movie ended, etc, etc. I think this movie was great but not as good as the Perfect Picture. I think the first hour of the movie was superb and fantastic and then the 'quality' dropped off in the last hour. Let's dig deeper into the issues at play. Maybe we'll get the sting :-)

Unlike the first 3 movies, "A Sting In A Tale (ASIAT)" is set mostly in village or small town settings. It talks about the struggle of Ghanaian youth in earning a living. You know that much from the trailer. What you may not know is that the movie features ghosts. That is a territory people would have thought Shirley wouldn't venture into. We all complain about the superstition and African electronics in various African movies, so for Sparrow to have used such was a little baffling. I think Sparrow didn't develop that part of the story well enough, but maybe, that is the 'sting'. Like KSM said in this interview with Shirley, "the movie doesn't end until it's over". ASIAT also featured more local language lines and local language songs. Hey, we even heard two characters sing a Ga folksong.

The movie features a great cast, all of whom I think did a great job with their roles. I loved Abeiku Acquah's character (Rocker) the most, and I think Adjetey Anang (Kuuku) also did an admirable job. He surely was a 'ticking time-bomb'. I was eager to see how Majid Michel (Nii Ayi) would do in his first Sparrow feature and he excelled too. Other members of the cast included Lydia Forson (Frema), Joycelyn C Dumars (Esi), Doris Sackitey (Auntie Tamara), David Oscar (James) and a cameo from Shirley Frimpong-Manso herself. I'm not sure what category to put the movie in but some sections of it were surely funny, solemn, dramatic, etc.

One thing about great movies is that the scenes are memorable. I loved the 'monsi mpia' scene simply because this is something that happens in Ghana a lot and set up the struggles Nii Ayi and Kuuku were going to go through. "This is such bullshit". This was a story line throughout the early struggles, almost a soundtrack if you may. "We are looking for some people with some experience." "How are we supposed to get any experience if nobody is prepared to hire us? ... Oh, don't worry, we are getting on the next bus to Makola. I will be doing an outing for the koko seller, perhaps you will hire me after that". The movie still features some romantic relationships, but they are deeply affected by the struggles that Nii Ayi and Kuuku face.

I love the way they alternated between the scene where Frema was visited by her mother and the one where Nii Ayi and Kuuku met James. "How much?" --> "You're joking right?" --> "I'm not". Then after the guys were sharing the laugh, they moved to the next scene where Frema said "this is not funny". That scene ended with 'no', and the next scene with Nii Ayi, Kuuku and James started with 'yes'. See how James used two phones at the same time? I guess they were MTN and Zain lines. "You bring the greens, I get you the dreams". David Oscar is a one-time winner of best comedian at the Stars of the Future contest. "Have faith". "Faith? Isn't that the name of your landlady?" "We don't even have money to buy birthday presents for our girlfriends and you are going to look for 2500 dollars to buy a visa". Yankee! :-)

Like I said before, I loved Abeiku Acquah's character, Rocker. I guess he's who you may call a 'sakawa' man. Or maybe he's just entrepreneurial. "Stop working for the system, let the system work for you". "Remember what I tell you, I walk upright and proud in poverty, on the surface of wealth". You can't hate on him for trying to be entrepreneurial and taking the bull by the horns while Kuuku and Nii Ayi fruitlessly sought jobs. It showed the different avenues Ghanaian youth are taking in the bid to make it. Kuuku and Nii Ayi try to get green cards and the move fails, because they are 419ed. You can't make these things up, they happen. To put them in a movie is excellent as well.

"What if I told you guys I can make you drink beer at half-price? And still make money doing it". "Same shit, different day". "Believe me guys, this shit smells real good". "Some of us are eating!" :-) Nii Ayi and Kuuku wanted to 'borga', also seek greener pastures. "This is just great" -> "This is just terrible". "Have you tried his number?" "Who? James? Numbers!". How did we greet the news of the visa move bouncing? Yet another brilliant idea from Rocker. "And boom, we are making money, only literally".... "Lucky for you, I am in the mood for some pessimists like you". "Lucky for you, Rocafella, I am in the mood for killing some scammers today". And then the ticking time-bomb starts a fight. I think the fight was a bit overdone though. See how they were cheering the guy though, too freakin real. Lol.

I was just so excited to hear Sarkodie's Borga get played. At the time of shooting, the song was fresh and popular. When the visa move failed, what was the best signal for our twosome to move on and try other moves? What a perfect song to play! Now there was no use for the winter coat. Except for two poor young Ghanaian guys to use it as payment for a service. Mɔbɔ. How can I even forget the Michael Essien scene? Superb. There are too many young crooks in Ghana. If you needed any evidence the movie was Ghanaian (and not from some other country), this was the scene. I think it was a nice way to celebrate one of Ghana's most visible Black stars. I also love how they were speaking Pidgin and not English with the artist. "Bɔga, bɔga ɛna ɛyɛɛ dɛn!" When did Ghanaians start to say "Yes o!" Well, maybe since a couple of years ago, the Nigerian influence is here to stay. I liked how they switched between using Pidgin, Ghanaian language, and English lines.

I like how the "Looks like God came back into town" line tied in to the end of the 'struggle'. Reminded us of the initial conversation Kuuku and Nii Ayi had. "Is it that God is too busy or that He has found more exciting problems?" "No government, no God, just us against the world on some ship". Doesn't that feel like something a young unemployed Ghanaian would say? Everyone gets his first suit from the 'foes' line right? For those of you who don't know what 'foes' or 'broni waawu' clothes are, they refer to second-hand items imported into the country. "So that means that the coffee replaces the hausa koko". I won't hate on Hausa koko though, I will pay top-notch dollar for some right now. Pre-paid heart? Sounds good to me, till the next re-charge.

I loved the Citizen Kofi scene as well. Citizen Kofi is a relatively new hot spot in Accra and to feature it in the movie shows that we'll remember ASIAT for introducing us to it. I had been hearing about Citizen Kofi all of 2009 before I went to Ghana for the Christmas and when I saw the Citizen Kofi scene, it solidified the 'hype' about the place. I visited Citizen Kofi as well and will be blogging about it too. Ghana boys, y'all dey pass by some Ashawo joint before going to a club? Things that make you go hmmm. Too many Ghanaian movies are featuring club scenes these days, but at least the video and sound quality of those scenes are improving.

You'll realise most of my commentary centers around the first part of the movie. Like I said earlier, the first part of the movie was super. The movie went a little downhill with the introduction of the ghost. It looked like right timing given what was happening in the scene and what had just happened before, but I think it arrived too late in the movie. "Mini fio bo?" So why did one person make it and the other didn't? Are some of us just luckier than others? Some may not think so. Hard work pays. But a little luck cannot be underestimated. Or maybe karma actually works. Watch the movie and decide for yourself. :-)

"Why do you always have to be so mean?" "Why do you always have to be so broke?" I think Frema's mother played a very interesting role in the movie. She seemed well off, and her daughter was in bed with a young man who wasn't making it. The movie's story was almost a battle between her unwillingess to be patient and Kuu's struggles. Life is about options, taking advantage of opportunities, utilizing help that comes your way, etc. We see the various characters in the movie get presented with different options and choices, and then their decisions and the consequences of their actions.

A lot of movies use flashbacks. The first few scenes were finally continued at the end. The shocks may have been too much for viewers. I heard one of my favorite Presec words too: gbele. "Life, it's one unpredictable son of a bitch." And then the twists started coming fast and furious. Must have been the most packed 10 minutes of a Ghanaian movie ever. :-) Well, maybe not, but that's for you to see the movie and judge for yourself. Concerning the ghosts, the only people who could see the ghosts were those who were also ghosts or humans who could help them. Maybe this piece of information can help explain the last few scenes and ultimately, the sting in the tale.

"So, how does it end?". "I was thinking maybe you'd like to end it, add your own sting to the tale"I have said a bunch of times that you should watch the movie and judge for yourself. Some of you have seen the movie and described it as horrible, not as good as Sparrow's other productions, etc. I hope this review will throw another light on the movie and you can watch it (again). Watched some selected scenes. The feedback is great though, I am sure Shirley and her crew will listen and improve upon it for their next productions. I just think they are doing a fine job and like KSM said, "Ghanaian movies are back". It's quality we are looking for, championing excellence.


Photos from A Sting In A Tale website.
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