By Obiri-Yeboah Maxwell.
Nineteen years ago when I was but a young lad, I recall watching an American action movie on a black and white television set on the State Broadcaster, Ghana Television. This was outside the family house of a man who owned the only drugstore in a town called Afomaaso; a suburb of a district capital, Agona in the Ashanti Region.
About two decades now; that was long before the advancement in modern day technology was born. Though it has been long and memories of the title and the entire scenes in the movie has faded in my mind’s eye, one thing I can still see is how adults with good sense of judgment were cheering to the unfolding of incidences by clapping, shouting and laughing loudly as we watched the movie in an open compound that evening.
Now a fully-grown man, I have seen the dynamic nature with regards to how these foreign movie industries have grown into. They have replaced the old scenes by attaching creativity to the human interest and problem solving approach to tell tales of their land and influencing millions of lives to show how powerful and smart they are as a people.
Indeed, they are not in a hurry doing what they do: they take time to present the best they can to the world. They read, seek detailed counsel, rehearse what they intend doing and inject quality resources into their movie industry. As a result, the movie industry in the United States of America (U.S.A), Hollywood, is made to appear with the best standards of film making. Yes! They carefully pay attention to details.
As a society reflector, the media talks about everything around us which include public transport, homes, offices, institutions and many others.
Just like the Western world, we Africans have a unique yet similar way of announcing our presence on the airwaves, too. Such means are what define us as a people from the Black Continent. But these days the packaging of some of our movies is so appalling.
Last Saturday, I went to the Agbogloshie market in Accra to buy some foodstuffs to prepare for the weekend. On board a Sprinter bus heading to Accra, something interesting happened.
While in my seat, I lifted my head and realized a Ghanaian movie was showing on a TV in the car where majority of the passengers had their eyes fixed on. After sometime, a fowl statement from a character in the play sparked a heated debate with divergent views from about twelve loud passengers in the car.
But the truth is that, what is wrong can never be decorated and given a new identity for it to be right in anyway. It reminded me of the days when we wrote and directed quality movies to portray the beauty of our culture to the world.
In those times, rich Ghanaian elements were deployed by those few yet well-informed movie directors to showcase our strength through our values in the form of healthy speeches, symbolic ornaments, genuine African buildings and clothes, our diet, among others. The film writers and directors of old had their very souls sitting in their movies: they were a true definition of what was shown on live camera.
Today, the descriptive devises and pure African images have been replaced with the comic-inspired and laughable superstitious story lines from two big wings in the Ghanaian movie industry: Kumawood, who use the local Akan language to communicate are based in Kumasi. In Accra, the love theme which is built on money, fame and the gun culture comes from Ghallywood; a group who is fond of using the English language in their movies.
Majority of what we see from our movie industry are now shown from a bunch of myopic jokers, pretense, misrepresentation and misinformation of the reality.
These young actors and actresses are seen happily retelling our tales and rewriting our destiny and cultures to the outside world without doing enough research before staging these movies as some custodians of our land and a portion of our educated elites are ready to give them what it takes to do the best. Others sit down unconcerned.
Last year, my friend Solomon Mensah, a colleague journalist with Media General wrote a story about a man who “married the camera” in the person of Dr. Chris Hesse. He is such an astute figure who represented excellence in many of his arts. I had a similar chat with one of the kingmakers from Asante-Akyem six months ago. Though this man has no formal education, the details in his speech tallied with what Solomon published on 3news.com on March 7, 2017 about Dr. Hesse.
They both whispered one song: moviemaking is a Science; what we see and hear is a total summation of our real self because most of these acts and speeches eventually stream down into our minds and turns out to be a behavioral pattern exhibited.
Our today’s movie industry has failed us and we need to collectively treat this disease for we have lived with it far too long. We have left our customs and traditions to be rewritten by a few folks who want to be hugely celebrated after appearing in a few scenes.
After listening and seeing people argue blindly in the car I was sitting last weekend, I realized majority of what we are consuming in our movies is a reflection of our society today; a bloated distortion from reality. As I sat down there, I bowed in shame reflecting on what is happening in our world and as a result, our youth are growing up without any clue about their culture.
The USA, Canada and China have done it and it translated in booming their economic freedom for centuries now. This same development built their confidence to a very high level as a nation and can promote our quest in patronizing our own products both home and abroad.
I strongly believe a huge chunk of the problem we face today in the movie industry is as a result of the lack of a potent monitoring and regulatory body. In this our time, an institution made up of a section of the custodians of our land, the professional film making body and the learned in our society should be liaising to correct the anomalies.
Is it that difficult to return to ourselves and grip what defines us as a society or we are just okay with what these few so-called celebrities keep doing on our screens? What happened to the honorable wise sayings which fell off the lips of the old Ghanaian? What happened to the characters with those perpetual flavors we were overjoyed seeing on our screens? Is this what we call our new standards as a people? How long are we going to let these folks continue painting this one-way vision of us to the world? Should this continue as the “norm” of the day? Could this be the beginning of our end in pictures?
This is a collective business and there is a need to restore professionalism, the spirit of decency, patriotism and Africanism in our movie industry by injecting our values into our people once more for the future is bleak. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts and all the other bodies must sit up and bring more proactive ideas and practical ways by using able men to achieve this task of bringing back the faded glories of the Gold Coast.
The foundation of this nation has become shaky because we have neglected the typical binding agent and have introduced more foreign materials into it than it is needed. The very soul of our nation is sick and will gradually die in her sleep when there is nothing left to impart unto tomorrow’s generation. We have to arrest this canker and restore what is fading, for “we are Africans not because we were born in Africa, but because Africa was born in us” (Dr. Kwame Nkrumah)!