When I wrote about the Ghanaian movie industry last November, I said it was my last word on the subject, I meant it - until I saw Nigerian Genevieve Nnaji’s latest production, ‘Lion Heart’ last weekend.
Everybody is talking about the beauty of art flowing out of that simple story, the uncomplicated plot, and great photography.
I cannot agree more. These, however, are not what have been driving my impulses these last few days to return to the almighty subject of the future of the Ghanaian movie industry.
My pulse raced even faster when I read the following news item: “Netflix recently acquired the rights to the movie ‘Lion Heart’ by Genevieve Nnaji on its channel.
This happened a day before the movie was premiered in Toronto; making 'Lion Heart' the first original film from Nigeria to be owned by the American movie streaming platform.”
The company has previously licensed Nollywood flicks, but only after both had been screened in local cinemas.
The news writer added this commentary: “This is a significant milestone for Nollywood because as a Netflix-branded movie, it stands a better chance to go global because of its heavy promotion.”
For those who may not know, Netflix Incorporated is one of the largest providers of movie content on the Internet.
It currently boasts over 117.6 million subscribers and partners with content providers to license streaming rights for a variety of TV shows and movies.
For sure, ‘Lion Heart’ is not beyond the creative competencies of some of our own writers and directors.
For the future of our film industry, however, ‘Lionheart’ has a few pages we can insert into our own records - that is, if we aim to catch the right eyes, the movers and shakers out there who do the bankrolling.
They hold in their hands the destiny of artists, directors, and productions.
Firstly, ‘Lion heart’ was written by a galaxy of star-rated writers, each of them an award winner in that craft.
For us in Ghana, it is like a script written by Shirley Frimpong Manso, Juliet Asante, Emmanuel Apea and Ivan Quarshigah.
The last time I checked, Professor Ama Ata Aidoo, Akosua Busia, Leila Djansi and John Akomfra have Ghanaian blood coursing through their veins.
Even if they don’t take part in the actual writing, the Ama Ata Aidoos of this world can pass an eye over a script.
In journalism, the effect of script collaboration will be akin to reading one news story bearing the by-line of Cameron Duodu, Ajoa Yeboah Afari, Elizabeth Ohene, Nanabanyin Dadson and Ransford Tetteh
Let’s face it, scripts are not our forte.
To make an impact in the very competitive world out there, there is wisdom in using such collaboration.
The thing is to get the name of Ghana established as a force to reckon with.
Talk about ‘Lion Heart’ and language. Why would Netflix buy a film with so many lines of dialogue in local Nigerian languages?
The answer is simple: it is inspired by and reflects a trend. The fact that the Oscars now have a ‘Foreign Language’ category confirms it.
Unfortunately, for technical reasons that had to do with rules of submission, none of Ghana’s films made it to the 2018 Oscars.
Check out ‘Lion Heart’. The mix of English, Igbo and Hausa go almost unnoticed. The film does not lose its non-Igbo/Hausa audience.
Language is only one way of introducing the Nigerian culture.
If you find yourself culturally enslaved, it is because Nigerian filmmakers are embarking on cultural imperialism, and they are doing it so well.
The effect of it is evident even in Ghana, where starting from the mid-to-late 1990s, Ghanaian women have resorted to those huge colourful headgears for social meetings such as weddings.
The words, ‘Oga’ and ‘Chineke’ are already part of the Ghanaian vocabulary.
The significance of this is that a century earlier, this same tool (film) had been used by our colonisers to change Africa’s taste and way of thinking.
How do we go about healing wounds instead of licking them? If you were at the last meeting of the Culture Forum with the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, you would appreciate my suggestion for more brainstorming sessions.
At that meeting, Dr Nii Moi Thompson laid bare a few truths that might not have sounded pleasant to some artists, but it was the painful truth. He cited instances of Ghanaian musicians performing outside of Ghana and singing in patois - sounding like faded carbon copies of Steel Pulse, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. “If Nigerians want to hear patois, they would bring a Jamaican musician, not a Ghanaian,” he advised.
My message: When a content buyer as big as Netflix starts advertising for a “Director of Content Acquisition for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa”, we in Ghana had better start thinking and (in Ghanaian local parlance) “getting wild”.