Prime News Ghana

Review of Beasts of No Nation & a word for Abraham Attah

By Michael Eli Dokosi
Abraham & Ryan
facebook sharing button Share
twitter sharing button Tweet
email sharing button Email
sharethis sharing button Share

Cary Joji Fukunaja’s Beasts of No Nation is an interesting movie. In one breath it reveals the rich floral life of Ghana which most video directors and filmmakers don’t tap into enough but on the other hand plays into the all too familiar African related movies which must bear slavery, war and savagery as well as corruption themes to stand the chance of gaining international recognition and awards.


Brought to life by Participant Media, Levantine Films, New Balloon, Mutressa Movies, Primary Productions and Parliament of Owls Production, the Beasts of No Nation is no small project given the number of production houses associated with it and the number making up the cast and crew.

While the 2hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds movie has elevated Abraham Attah who played Agu to dizzying heights, it must be said that unless the filmmakers have a part two in mind, an injustice was done several of the characters in expiring them too quickly with the movie ending on a disjointed note.

Thankfully this movie engaged the services of experienced hands including David Dontoh, Grace Nortey, Fred Amugi and Ama K. Abrebrese while availing a platform for young minds to offer what they’ve got some of whom had no idea they could act.

Without a doubt Agu’s smile is infectious, charming even disarming explaining why many have taken to him as if they knew him from Adam but a character who ought to have been given enough room to shine is Dike.

The fellow is a delight to watch. His petite frame and alacrity even earns him more love. Hopefully Ghanaian filmmakers have noted him such that movie lovers can expect to see more from the young but delightful soul.

The use of the Twi language in the movie was superb. One can feel a deliberate attempt was made by the filmmakers to not want to situate the movie in one setting hence the offering of Ghanaian, Nigerian and Liberian accents by way of language delivery.

Idris Elba who plays Commandant offers a compelling performance in tone and accent delivery as well as posture.

The one tasked to scout for location did an impressive job in securing the habitable towns used, the forest and the sea town.

Another thumbs-up for the movie is the infusion of the free style sessions where verses of Sarkodie and Shatta Wale were rendered.

Curiously this movie adopted the use of the present continuous tense in delivering the dialogue.

Troubling scenes however include one requiring Agu and later Strika to chop off the head of a captive, playing right into the savagery claims associated with the people of the motherland.

Again the homosexual or pedophilia scenes involving Commandant and Strika then later Agu are worrying not to talk about the ‘free show’ display of Commandant’s 2IC involving display of his genitals on the street.

In meeting Supreme Commandant Goodblood, one cannot help but notice on his walls, painting of African slaves in chains and framed photograph of African slaves enduring crude devices used by slave oppressors and suppressors in breaking their spirits while stealing from their labour and intellect.

The purpose of such images is yet to be ascertained in a movie such as Beats of No Nation except this writer is inclined to think it all falls in the same bracket of black denigration by demented Caucasians or self-hating ‘Negropeans’.

Surely the filmmakers know best why they shot this movie and the message they sought to convey.

In summary however it could well be that conflict breaks out in a state where the government of the day is locked in battle with different factions (NRC, PLF, NDF etc.) leading to exodus of citizens. Agu a teenage boy is separated when his mother and sister are shepherded to a vehicle to be whisked away to safety in the city. Although Agu was set to join his mum and sister, the plan fell through leaving Agu, his father and elder brother to face the war storm.

Father and brother get shot leaving Agu to journey through the forest till Commandant’s group (Strika) discover him and take him under their wing. After killings, use of hard drugs, death of members and wins, Commandant is summoned to his superior Goodblood’s office to relinquish military control and assume a new political post so his 2IC can take charge.

Commandant has his potential heir assassinated during a rumpus with a lady of the night whereupon Agu’s team escape only for viewers to be taken to a ‘galamsey’ pit or illegal (shallow) mining site where distraught recruits challenge Commandant’s authority and demand liberty.

It appears Cary, the scriptwriter had something in mind in the beginning but the transitioning had difficulties. Agu’s mum and sister could have been reunited with him. Again Commandant’s fate could have been conceived better while Dike could have been offered even more delightful moments had he not been expired too soon.

Costuming was okay as was the trick done with the colour schemes. Abraham Attah did well given this movie was his first professional acting work but was Attah’s display beyond replication? No.

Does Beats of No Nation, possess certain uniqueness that puts it heads and shoulders above other movies? No. The cinematography, plot and soundtracks surely could have been tighter and crispier.

And it is here Attah and his handlers must be guarded for the boy’ own good. True since his film work, he has won the Best Male Lead at the 31st Film Independent Spirit Awards, Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor at the Venice film festival, the National Board of Review Award for Best Breakthrough Performance, Black Film Critics Rising Star Award, Ghana Movie Awards, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer and seizing the chance to present an award at the Oscars but examples abound of persons who had the ‘sun’ but virtually could not lay hold of even the ‘moon’.

Would this movie have gone far had it not hinged on an African child soldier story? I doubt it.

For a good number of these Movie Awarding Boards, when it comes to Africa or Africans for movie consideration, there exists some bias.

Slavery has imparted adversely on the lives of many Africans so such stories must be told but in telling them there is need to not just do a lazy job but touch also on aspects which are often downplayed or downright hidden. For instance touch on the Africans who resisted, rebelled and killed their oppressors.

Talk about how African slaves conceived and invented things only for the suppressing master to register the invention and take the credit for it and make fortunes out of it.

Talk about how many of these wars on the continent bear little or no religious, ethnic semblance rather stoked by gun merchants under European and American government cover (Liberia, Sierra Leone, CAR wars).

Or how the Congo has had no peace because foreign governments and corporations bankroll youth to foment trouble so undercover, coltan and other rare resources can be cheaply sourced for phone and electronic products for global sale and huge profits for the predatory organizations.

For Abraham Attah his time is now, he should bask in the sun for he is in the dawn of his life. There is yet morning, noon and night to cross.

Most Africans are conditioned to look forward to validation from the Caucasian through awards, certificates and special mentions leading to a most dangerous species of the African: The one who bears melanin but in desire, thought and deeds is for the Caucasoid race.

At 15 years, Attah you must be guarded and probe yourself, for the journey ahead can test your mind, body and soul. When you get the chance, draw close to another Oscar darling Lupita Nyong'o who shot up after going nude in ‘12 Years a Slave’ and being the sex toy of her Master, how life has been after the glitter.

I hear you intend enrolling in an American college soon. May the ancestors and the Supreme Divine guide your path. Adios for now, perhaps our paths shall cross soon.