Thursday, March 25, 2010

King Ampaw's No Time To Die: a review

Have I become a movie critic? Maybe. I am just spreading the good news about some great Ghanaian movies you should see. One of those is King Ampaw's "No Time To Die" (NTTD). It has a star-studded cast and it is an African romantic comedy. I had been seeking to watch this movie since 2007 and finally early this year, I got the chance to watch it. I loved it and those I watched it with loved it too. I talk about that experience in this previous post. Also known as L'ultime hommage (Ghanaian-German production), NTTD is a great Ghanaian movie. It was partly founded by Germans but the whole movie is set in Ghana with a star-studded Ghanaian movie cast. Let's delve a little bit more into NTTD.

"No Time To Die" is a two-hour full length feature film which portrays love and comedy, directed by Ampaw, a renowned Ghanaian film maker. It was produced by Wolfgang Panzer, a German. It is supported financially by the European Union, the French government and Afro Movies Limited, King Ampaw's film production "Nana Akoto" and "Kukurantumi," two of King Ampaw's feature films. The movie is set in Ghana and seeks to portray love the Ghanaian way while providing some comic relief. The cast includes David Dontoh (the host of Agoro and also known as GhanaMan), Kofi Bucknor, Kofi Middleton Mends, Fritz Baffuor (a comedian who's now an Honourable Member of Parliament), Agnes Dapaah, Agartha Ofori, Kwesi France, Evants Hunter, Amartey Hedzoleh Laryea, etc. The synopis: "A hearse driver meets and falls in love with a young, beautiful dancer who is planning an elaborate homegoing celebration for her mother. This love and comedy feature length film follows David Dontoh, the hearse driver (known in the movie as Asare), as he does everything to win her affection." It's a great movie because it shows the funny side of Ghanaians, and doesn't touch HIV/AIDS, or war type African movies or even the home 'drama' movies we've been seeing from Africa lately.

The movie is truly a romantic comedy. Even people who don't know jack about Ghana would laugh. The lines sounded very theatre like though, felt like the viewer was watching a play.

I love the role of the 'blind soothsayer'. We see him playing a percussion instrument and when he receives a visitor, he says, "I see a lot more than you can see, I see luck for you today". Note here that he is blind. Asare is told he will meet the lady of his dreams who will trust him. He meets a lady who's selling her food and shows interest but then says, "I have lost appetite" when he sees her bad teeth. She responds, "Please, bra, where you dey go? LMAO. Asare's boss is even funnier. He works for the "Dead on wheels enterprise" and his mantra is "People are dying like flies". "More dead people, more funerals, more business, more money!". They have some interesting conversations.

When Asare meets Esi, the lady he ends up falling in love with, he expresses interest with this weird kissing sound which is the most hilarious thing ever. The first time he does, you are like, "WednesdayThursdayFriday". The third time, you are loving it and then with the sixth time, it gets a little redundant and annoying. Asare's assistant is played by one of these popular Ghanaian 'midget' actors. Our answer to Aki and Porpor. One of the kids in Asare's house is played by a 'midget' too.

I really loved how the coffin business tied into the movie. We see a scene at a coffin makers' shop where Esi buys one shaped like a plane called 'Heaven Airlines' for her dead mother. She says, "My mother always wished to fly in an aeroplane, she should get to the ancestors in one". Asare's car had the inscription, "No Time To Die", which was sarcastic given the business he was into. The movie was set in a time where the cedi denomination hadn't been done so it was cool to see 'plenty cash - many 5000 cedi notes'.

Throughout the movie, we see how Asare does everything in his power to make Esi like him. "For you, i will drive anywhere". Some people will say, those kinds of men are few and far between today. Discuss. King Ampaw shows so much in the movie that it is 'really' Ghana. The movie just screams 'Authenticity and Realness'. In one scene, we see our main characters get into traffic and then they have to bypass it.

There is a funeral scene in the movie, where we see some 'jama' action and dirges being sang. It was kind of disgusting to see dead bodies in the mortuary. Amakye Dede's music is almost perfect for funeral times and we hear it blaring on the radio played. The Ramblers' Swinging Safari is one of the most popular Ghanaian songs ever and it was played during a scene which had people eating fufu at a chop bar. We even see Fritz's character pass a comment about a young girl (you know how old Ghanaian men prey on young damsels style). "Some slim lovely thing like that - slim things are dangerous o!". Esi goes to see a traditional priest to see how the mother died and we hear more Abrantie Amakye Dede music - "M'awerEkyekyere ei Ene Awurade o". The traditional priest works his magic and unlike other Ghanaian movies, we don't see interesting camera effects. Yes, because in real life, you won't see lightning striking, and all those magical things. Funny thing is, after all his ntoatoa, after all the magic he worked, he simply tells Esi, "she died a natural death". Bummer.

I thought it was interesting that Esi danced Adowa while her mother was laid in state. I see a "Kyeiwaa" sighting too. Asare, however, is so much in love. Esi ties a red cloth on his hand, but he sees red, not as death but as love. The scene where the body is buried was even better. It just looked so authentic. Esi's mother joins her ancestors in flight. The airplane coffin goes down a runway into the grave, classic! While people are mourning, Asare is loving. He ends up not charging Esi's family nothing for his services (sure to piss off his boss). "We are not running a charity organization, you know". This gesture ""is something that has never happened in this town". Someone quibs, "even with her passing, she's still making money".

Asare goes back to soothsayer for more luck. He tells him, "don't give her bread, give her grasscutter. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is where Asare goes on a grasscutter hunt and asks, "Do u have grasscutter?". "Yes, I got one." And she brings out a lawn mower! I'm talking about bush meat grasscutter!". And then he goes somewhere and asks of lawn mower lol!. "you know what our elders say - if a man gives the woman he wants to marry grasscutter then the woman will have to be faithful to him
. We see Asare admiring Esi dancing at Kokrobite, booty shaking and all. We actually see a German in the movie eventually. Except, he's dead. He rode his bicycle into a village, sat under a tree, stiff, and died. Asare needed an excuse to go to Kokrobite to go see Esi dance, he lied that he was going for a corpse. He chanced upon one and better still, it was an 'obroni'. Oh, Asare and Esi? They get 'busy' in the coffin truck, shaking it in the process! If you thought some of the sex scenes in Ghanaian movies were tasteless, this particular one would have you laughing. This happens after Esi figures out that kissing sound and they do a series of those and get it on. Nice segue if you ask me.

I don't want to give the whole movie away but it's absolutely hilarious. You should definitely see it. I promise to find an avenue for you to watch it. Google around in the meantime. There are dame/draught scenes, etc. There are too many good quotes and lines to put in this movie. The ending is also great with a little twist and an unexplained scene. The movie ends with a wedding :-) and that their stupid sound!
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