Month: April 2015



In most societies, there are a number of institutions, organizations, sects whatever you may call them, which strongly influence the way of life of the citizens. Some more directly then others, nevertheless we cannot deny the level of influence. Therefore it is prudent to demand a superior level of behavior from these groups if the end goal is to secure responsible and level headed citizens.
The West was very strategic in packaging and delivering Hollywood; Tinseltown they fondly nicknamed it, to the masses as a guaranteed conduit through which subtle messages could be conveyed to eager audiences. Nowadays subtle has long been abandoned and more blatant messaging is being used ever since the power of movies was stumbled upon! This is how Tinseltown won the West!
Story-telling-photoIn Africa, storytelling and its influence was well known and formed an integral part of our cultural fabric from the days of our ancestors long gone to current day. The art of storytelling remained a thread of culture that was sustained and made prominent in the daily lives of the people. So one would have thought, we would have found ‘our’ Hollywood long ago and developed it into the powerhouse it ought to be today! How far we have passed the baton on from the era of sitting around the fireside to sitting glued in front of a TV set is a matter of debate, however a debate for another time. What keeps me up at night is the content being fed to the eager audience!
Without quoting any scientific study, I would assume it is true to some extent that there is a direct correlation between the exposure of positive images and a person’s outlook on life. If a person is exposed to disaster, destruction, negativity over a long period in time, it is assumed that that person inadvertently would develop a negative view of the world. So consequently, we can easily conclude that Hollywood, Ballywood, Nollywood or whatever ‘wood’ we have out there are very strong influences on the societies patronizing them. If we are all on the same page up to this point – then this is a good sign because there lays the basis of my argument going forward.
Each year Hollywood makes it a business to release block busters guaranteed to appeal to the emotions of its viewership and interestingly enough every year Hollywood awards directors and producers who pulled at the heart strings of the audience the most with their intriguing, uplifting storylines. This only encourages more uplifting productions and storylines, which in turn increases the positive images projected from tinseltown. The average viewer craves these positive images, inspiring stories of perseverance and will, enduring love stories just to escape the harsh realities of the world. There is also the hope that if someone could overcome hardship, so can the other person. For some of us, it is through movies that we can experience positive human interaction. So to some extent, Hollywood deserves kudos and a slap on its back for the somewhat positive influence on its viewership.
Now to my question at hand; irrespective of presentation, technological advancement, theatrical development, which we all know there is more to be desired, why are most of the storylines , scripts and themes of Ghanaian and Nigerian movies (these are the ones I am exposed to) so negatively based? I can actually count the number of Ghanaian or Nigerian movies that do not have some element of witch craft, evil spirits, demons, ghosts and bad fortune! This then begs the question; are our societies based on these ‘negative’ images and if so are these the lasting images we want to project on screen as well? What happened to the story of perseverance, the story of hope or the stories of the great Africans who have made revolutionary moves warranting autobiographical movie depiction? I guess we will leave those story plots to Hollywood and keep to our Agya Koo and Adadzewaa his witch of a mother!
Not to age myself, but growing up it was the same story – a Ghanaian movie was not ‘a Ghanaian move without the occasional trip to the Maalam or witch-doctor or the mischief ways of a ghost tormenting a poor relative. It was a breath of fresh air when I watched the first ever real Ghanaian comedy-love story, ‘Six Lovers of Melody”. If my memory serves me well, that was the first Ghanaian movie I had watched that was free of the witchcraft and tales from the underworld! It was a carefree comedy that got you laughing from beginning to end. An attempt at something different paid off – at least I think it did because of the great reviews that movie got at the time.
TVWhen I moved back to Ghana after a decade away, I was so proud to see that our local TV content involved airing of local movies and programming – well that feeling of pride was short lived when I actually watched a hand full of local movies and realized the plots had not changed! So that meant my love affair with Hollywood had to continue in order to stay sane and not be scared out of my wits of the possibility that an old grandmother in the village had sold my soul to a water god of some sort! The good news is that nowadays our TV content has broadened – the eve of Tele Nova has the masses glued to their TV sets. The bad news is that it highlights our misplaced interests to consume foreign and not reform local. As a cherry on the cake, we even have local story tellers translating these intriguing plots for the local viewers who struggle to understand the English-subtitled Tele Nova. Why are people so hooked – because the storylines are that inviting and I know for one thing they are lacking of our underworld friends! So why can’t we have a Ghanaian ‘Mari Cruz’ or ‘What life took from me” script???? These are stories that highlight positive images and plots of perseverance and will. Forget Hollywood blockbusters, these productions should be within arm’s reach. Shoot, if our creative geniuses cannot come up with storylines like that, then let’s do what we do best – copy! Give the local people a positive story line of strife and endurance but with our own actors and our own towns and street names.
Positive images goes a very long way in forming the lives of the people so why are we glorifying witchcraft and evil spirits in our films when we can uphold more meaningful cultural practices and virtues. The film industry has a duty as an influencing media to portray positivity to its viewership. The world is evolving and maturing but we are still living in our villages even though we made the migration from the villages. The Ghana film industry needs to sit up and realize the importance its existence has on the socialization of its people.
We can be counted in international film festivals! Until we move away from the village plot Ghallywood or Nollywood will just be another failed title for crushed hopes and dreams and will never play at the ‘big kids’ table!!!