The Ghana film industry is in considerable distress. I read a recent article by Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo about a confused Ghana film industry. In the On the Radar segment, he made interesting observations. Kumawood and Film Actors Association of Ghana, FIPAG, are seeking Otumfuo’s influence in curtailing the influx of telenovellas. Another part, spearheaded by Juliet Asante, is pursuing a ‘business of film’ agenda that touches on the role of policy in reviving and formulating a film industry. Then there is another segment that is collecting signatures. What is the way forward?
I think all sides are true and right on point. Kumawood touches on culture and the things that make us unique as a people. Culture is a fusion of the local and the foreign, the sacrosanct and the profane. It derives strongly from different points of view, each of which is affected by what we see and what we create. And by the simple fact that what we create is itself a function of what we see from outside our borders, it goes without saying that a lot of what we even believe as local is borrowed. I use borrowed lightly. Our high life is a prime example. However, it is important that we are doing this on our own terms. Even after liberalisation, China allows only a limited quantity of foreign films into its market. Of the films that are allowed, there are strict content guidelines that must be followed before the films are shown in cinemas across the Asian country.
On the second group of persons, I can’t see a more benevolent attempt at recreating our film industry. Cast your minds back to the good old days when Ghanaian movies filled our minds. The classic I told You So was the prime example of what we could create, and that if we do it well enough with enough of our experiences, then that thing we create is going to last the test of time. It must be worrying that for a long time no locally created film can boast a lingering effect on our consciousness. The only thing going for us now is the Ghana-Nigeria collaborations, which is only peppering over the cracks of our troubles. Think of it: the Nigerians did it to expand their audience base. Ghana accepted it merely as an extension of our own tastes and preferences. Today, years after it began, how many all-Ghanaian films will make it on the Nigerian market? Very few.
Then there is the last group. The YN group. Yvonne Nelson recently embarked on a campaign to get signatures to petition government on the plight of the industry. I saw nothing wrong with her effort even if Juliet Asante thought it would solve nothing. What she was doing was similar to her #DumsorMustStop campaign which raised a lot of discussion points on one of Ghana’s darkest moments in the 21st century. To me, her effort shows what a force she represents on her own. I mean, she has the social media following. She has achieved acclaim between Ghana and Nigeria, making her one of the handful actors to benefit from the historic Ghana-Naija collaborations. Of the three segments that make the semblance of an industry that she is a part of, she is one of a few, in my opinion, who straddle, effortlessly, the vast region of stardom between Ghana and Nigeria. In a world of Instagram and YouTube, Yvonne Nelson is a force that should be tapped into to raise the image of the Ghana film industry.
It is why I wish these three elements would recognise their differences as a collective strength. Kumawood is arguably an industry on its own. In fact, it is so ubiquitous Iflix hopped onto their coattails to market itself. Juliet Asante is an experienced head in the industry. Her experiences between acting, production, and film business put her in a very unique position in the midst of her peers. She is, in a way, the Tyler Perry of the Ghana film industry. If the two are the cogs of the industry, Yvonne Nelson is the internet of Ghana movies. She is not just a popular figure in show business, but she has shown again how much of an advocate she is. There is more to her than just the fame.
The three have to stand together or we will all fall together.