Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sparrow Productions' Checkmate - a Ghanaian movie review

It was nice to see Nadia Buari finally in a Sparrow Productions movie after Majid Michel and Jackie Appiah. The fifth move from the stable of Shirley Frimpong-Manso is Checkmate. My brother saw it at Tech (KNUST) and gave it a thumbs up. I waited patiently for the next time I could buy or get someone to buy me the movie. After my cousin sent me a text saying she had watched the movie online and liked it, I had to forego my initial plan of buying it to watch it online too. I was not disappointed. I've seen Checkmate twice and I am still going to buy the movie. You should too.

The movie stayed true to this chess game idea the trailer seemed to portray. The movie's tag line was "play smart or lose everything". The movie stars Nadia Buari, Ekow Blankson, Naa Ashorkor Mensah Doku, KSM and introduced Khareema Aguiar, Kwaku Boateng and Senanu Gbedawo. There was also a role for Veeda Darko, the former miss Ghana America who's been cast in a couple of Nollywood movies and had some successful singles Biribi yaaye me and Please forgive me. After Life and Living it, Scorned, The Perfect Picture, and A Sting in a Tale (ASIAT), Checkmate is also a great movie. I definitely think it's right up there with Scorned as my least favorite Sparrow Productions' movies though. Real talk. It's still one to watch though. The movie was a little slow for me in the beginning but picked up as it progressed. I love the story because it has a great ending but if you take risks, there is always a sting involved and we saw that at the end of the movie. I love how the movie was a series of chess moves which had to be dealt with by the various characters involved. At the end, there was the 'checkmate'.

A main storyline in the movie is Kwame, a policemen, going about his job and his ambition of becoming a member of parliament. The movie shows a bit of the politics that exists in Ghana. It ties the drug trade with political ambition and corruption. If you know anything about Ghana, you'll know it's been bedevelled with drug problems over the last few years. Checkmate throws some light unto the challenges Ghana faces in getting rid of it. It also shows how many rich people in Ghana may have made their money through foul means, especially using the drug trade.

This movie doesn't feature a lot of local language lines but they were chosen very nicely. Ghanaians always seem to switch to their mother tongues when they are irritated or angry. Ghanaians show frustration through car honking like we see in one of the scenes. In Ghana, it is normal. Elsewhere, it is road rage. "Tu wo car no o! Mini? Aha na wobɛda?" In a couple of sentences, a Ghanaian easily shows his command of two languages. "W'abɔ dam? = "Are you mad?" It would have been nice to use an Abodam Kwaw Kese song during that scene lol. Ghanaians also use their mother tongues in times of unbridled joy. When Christmas comes early, we say "Madi bronya" which literally means "I've celebrated Christmas" or "it feels like Christmas". So if a Ghanaian switches to his local language, depending on his antics, (s)he must be very pissed or very happy.

The part of the movie which dealt with Kwame's political ambition had me thinking about politics in general. His wife, Naana, told him, "You're born to do this". Is anyone born to do politics or lead persay? "The poeple who are going to vote for you, they are going to vote for you because in you they see the potential for you to make their lives better". This is nicely put but if we judge by the elections we've seen in Africa, we might all beg to differ. Because more often than not, it is "You better remember me in your days of glory". Sometimes when these politicians don't see the vision, you can be that politician who can make this possible. Kwame didn't want to get help from his father-in-law who was the Minister of Interior because of how it would look into the political game but you never know what motives drive those who openly ask to help you. E no easy eh.

I liked the soundtrack as well. Fellow Odadee, Elorm Adablah (El) worked on the score and his 'Why' instrumental was used. Trigmatic is a Ghanaian rapper riding high on the Channel O waves at the moment and two of his tracks were used as well, 'My life' (Ataa Nyonmo ei.... nobody knows tomorrow) and 'Move to the Center'. There was also Sunshine by Nii featuring Iwan, both of Bullhaus Entertainment. Iwan's Still love me seemed to be the main soundtrack though I'm not sure how the lyrics "Am a ShoeShine Buoy, But me Gyal Love Me; Am A Trotro Driver But me Gyal love me; Am A Zoomlionist But me Gyal Love Me; I Sell P.K Pon de street But Me Gyal Love Me;" are relevant to the movie. Sante, a Ghanaian-British R&B singer, had a number of songs used in this movie. They include 'Misconception', 'Since', 'Love', 'Another sad song' and also 'So confused' with Mr. Max which was used during a lap dance. Who sings a song called 'So confused' during a lap dance? Watch the movie to find out.

"Let's not forget I wear one too. but it doesn't wear me, I wear it. We're married, not on deathrow". There was also the relationship between Kwame and Caroline as well as Kwame and his wife. It was always interesting how both Kwame and his wife used the "I love you" lines. Funny to watch really. Has anyone else noticed that Ghanaians say "Are you sure?" a lot? It's like second nature to ask it even if we heard what was said the first time. Nadia's character, Caroline, claimed a hopeless case of emotions who let her heart go where her head should be. When it comes to matters of the heart, it's very difficult to choose between what your heart feels and what your head says. Will leave the choice to y'all. I think the right decision depends on the situation, the head may not always be right. Or is it?

The movie had a lot of romantic scenes. As usual, Sparrow Productions did it in a classy way. Romantic scenes in African movies are here to stay, I'm not saying we should do away with them, we just have to do them well. Not in the poor taste ways some other Ghanaian movies have been doing them. The massage scene was something else, with massage oils and all. I really want to go to a massage parlour soon and get indulged in one. They look like so much fun. Dude was massaging the lady's legs, head, everything. Pure bliss. Which married men claim kissing as their favorite food? Kwame does.

A few things caught my attention though. Is a household whose breadwinner a regular customs officer a middle-class family? What do middle-class Ghanaian families have for breakfast? Omelette with tea and apples? Tom-brown with oranges and milo? Hausa koko with koose and coffee? This was the first movie I had seen Veeda in. Her character seemed like one of the Ghanaian ladies who travels abroad a lot. Or maybe it was just her locally acquired foreign accent making her character seem like a fake london boy. I wonder if that's how she actually speaks since she's been living in the US for a while. I loved the use of Kiki's ringtone. We got introduced to it as we realised how rich he was. Every other time we heard the ringtone, it became funnier and funnier. "You are blessed in your family, you are blessed in your money, you are blessed in your finances, you are blessed in your business". Why do gangsters always smoke cigars or cigarettes? What's up with that?

"You don't do alcohol at all?" "Occasionally". "Well, this is an occasion". "I just don't hang drinking anymore, better safe than sorry". Well, the next time, we see Kwame drinking and he was going to be sorry. Drinking alcohol if that's not what you normally do is taking a risk. They say, life: "It's about taking risks and taking calculations, just about making the right moves". "Life is like a big game of chess, before you make a step or move, you have to calculate the risks involved or the gains thereafter". Kwame took different risks in the movie and made a lot of chess moves. In fact, it looked like many of the movie's characters made chess moves against each other. Checkmate is a movie of chess moves which has chess scenes. It shows us how life can be one big game of chess. Sparrow Productions does a good job carrying the message across and the movie is a keeper. Go, get it.
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