In the past, Ghanaian film making reflected the invincibility of our African heritage. Through film, veteran Ghanaian filmmaker, Kwaw Ansah, showed the world an aspect of our African heritage that tends to be missing from most of our recent films. One could hardly escape the feeling of nostalgia and nationalism after watching films like ‘Heritage Africa’. Such is the power of film!
Recent developments on the film making scene in Ghana points to the fact that the industry stakeholders are determined to restore the golden age of film making. Notable among efforts aimed at achieving this is the establishment of the Black Star International Film Festival (BSIFF), a film festival founded by filmmaker and Harvard graduate Juliet Asante.
What is perhaps interesting is the fact that Juliet, is also Board Chair of the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) which has been responsible for training film and television professionals in Ghana since 1978. With Juliet Asante as Chair and Dr Samuel Nai as rector of NAFTI, the institute has prioritised the promotion of Ghana as a Co-Production hub and recently represented the industry at the just ended Cannes Film Festival in France. The world view of students, who are prospective filmmakers, is being shaped to focus on the African narrative.
The Black Star International Film Festival takes place in August each year and this year’s edition, which takes place in Accra from the 20 – 25 August, promises even greater participation from both the local and international film community.
As the Ghanaian film community prepares for a surge in meaningful co-productions globally it is important to establish that African film making has never had a better opportunity to tell the African story than now. The existence of numerous media platforms across the world who are opened to exposing the African story is an opportunity for African filmmakers to get creative. Some of these platforms are owned by Africans. The challenge for the African filmmaking community, however, will be what kind of stories they decide to showcase to the world.
If the foreign media is perceived to tell the African story wrongly then we have to do a better job at telling our own stories. This is particularly important in redeeming the African image and our heritage. For Africans who live in the diaspora, it can be quite a daunting task explaining the scenes of excessive abuse by men on women in some of our African films. In many cases, whiles watching such films with neighbours who have a genuine interest in learning about one’s culture they tend to be jolted by these instances of unbridled violence. The persistent portrayal of witchcraft which has become synonymous with most of our films also casts a shadow over the African image.
Although these vices also exist in other cultures, we cannot continue to reinforce the negative narrative about our culture and heritage. The overriding aim for the African filmmaker should be to tell stories that reflect the glamour and invincibility of our African heritage.