GOODWILL MESSAGE ON BEHALF OF FILM MAKERS OF GHANA BY KWAW ANSAH AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE CONTENT COMMITTEE OF THE GHANA FILM AUTHORITY, ON JULY 8, 2020
Honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Mrs Barbara Oteng Gyasi, Chairman of the Ghana Film Authority, Mr David Ato Dontoh, the Executive Secretary of Ghana Film Authority, Madam Juliet Asantewaa Asante, distinguished guests, fellow artists
It gives me great satisfaction and immense pleasure to be associated with yet another step in the long march to achieve a truly African film industry, and to speak on behalf of my senior colleagues in the industry.
Today’s event – the Inauguration of the Content Committee of the Ghana Film Authority – is part of the building blocks needed to lay an enduring foundation and an attractive superstructure for an industry which is dear to the hearts of all true African film makers.
As I congratulate the chair and members of the committee, I can only remind fellow artists that in this industry, content is everything. And this is particularly so in Africa whose people have suffered an almost irreparable damage to its psyche, its image and self-worth, through the subtle manipulation of this audio-visual medium by those who enslaved and colonized us.
On an occasion like this, we remember the words of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah on 31st of July, 1965 when he inaugurated the television service of Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. He hoped that Africa would see the audio-visual medium as a weapon to push back the colonial agenda where one “very clever” American could outsmart and outwit a thousand “brainless savages”. He was referring to the cowboy films of that era used by Hollywood to justify the extermination of native Indians, original owners of the land that is now called United States of America.
He was referring to those Second World War films in which a handful of smart “American soldiers” could subdue an entire Japanese army. No wonder that in Africa at the time, all goods from Japan were classified as “Japo” or “rokpopko”, meaning inferior products. Not too long before these American films, the British had used this medium to change the taste and etiquette of the native African who had to be “civilized”. Could you believe that the heroic deeds of our brave soldiers in “The West Africa Frontier Force”, who played a major role in defeating Adolf Hitler’s assault are all edited out of the World War II documentary films?
If they had not edited these gallant scenes of our warrior forebears’ brave performance in WW II, would the younger generation not feel proud to be Africans? And what does that tell us? It says, nobody can tell the Golden African story, but the African.
It is good to struggle to build a solid infrastructure for the Ghanaian film industry; it is good to ask government to seed the industry with funds. To make my film, ‘Love Brewed in the African Pot’, my father-in-law stepped in with his house to mortgage the loan I took from the bank, and you know what that means, “if I lose the house, I lose the wife I love” . In the case of ‘Heritage Africa’, a consortium of four banks combined to finance it.
Everybody old enough to remember, knows the story.
I collapsed and had to be rushed to the Cromwell hospital in London on two occasions. On the second occasion, I asked to be discharged prematurely because the bill as I found worsened my illness and I had to struggle at home to recover.
My colleague senior film citizens and I have fought for a Film Development Fund all our lives.
Today, there is a promise of it in the new law. Whether and when it will materialize is another matter.
But the big question is, what films do we have in mind? Certainly, it should not be those films that will continue the assault on the African mind, portraying us as not only savages but cannibals perpetually thirsty for human blood and hungry for human flesh.
Films in which good angels are white and Satan is black. In the fifties, up to, perhaps the seventies, Indian films were all about magic and spiritism. India has woken up. Africa, and I dare say, Ghana must wake up. That, in my opinion, is the mandate of this Content Committee.
Content answers all things. And that is why the inauguration of this Samuel Atta Mensah Committee is very critical. Kindly let the Ghanaian see more of the relevant African films.
By the grace of Twereampong Nyame, Ghanaian film makers shall have the funds. Having made the films, where do we exhibit them? By a singular act of Executive fiat, government in an untransparent manner sold Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) and the next thing the buyers, the Malaysians did, was to dubiously engage all the GFIC theatres in all manner of activities, except film exhibition and also saw to it that our great archival films made by Ghanaians were destroyed through careless storage.
And now what has happened to all the other private theatres that we knew? The Orions, the Dunias, the Operas, the Regals, the Oxfords etc? They’ve all been turned into churches and supermarkets.
The other day, I read a story in the Daily Graphic in which the Film Authority, through its board chair, Mr David Ato Dontoh, was asking for a grant of GHc100 million.
Among others, the money will be used to build theatres of varying grades to suit different audience types in the communities. It is not a bad dream; indeed, I personally, and together with my colleague senior film citizens in Ghana will, as the Fantes say, “put our mouth in the matter” (yꜫdze hꜫn ano bↄto asꜫm no mu).
We need the theatres. I propose that even before they materialize, we have to put on paper the structures to determine what proportion of local, against foreign movies we shall allow.
Finally, I wish to recognize some of my senior film colleagues present here, Chris Hesse, King Ampaw, Ernest Aberkwey, and relatively younger colleagues, Shirley Frimpong Manso, Ivan Quarshiegah, Veronika Nai, to mention a few.
I will also use this occasion to salute Mr Samuel Atta Mensah, Managing Director of Omni Media, owners of Citi FM and Citi TV, on his appointment. His works, evident on his radio and TV stations, have preceded him. In my opinion, if one Ghanaian qualifies for this position, the man everybody calls Sammens does.
I also salute a journalist who has used his pen over the years to make a case for this industry. I am talking of Mr Enimil Ashon, former Editor of ‘Ghanaian Times’ who, an arts critic in the 80s and 90s, did great advocacy for our industry. I would also like to recognize Nii Laryea Korle and Nana Banyin Dadson of the Graphic corporation, whose contribution have helped shape our industry and the creative arts.
I cannot sit down without giving the highest honour to whom the honour is due. We Film Makers and Creative Artists are happy that His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo has by his policies and utterances, proved that he does not only listens, but he more than sympathizes with the pleas of creative artists in Ghana. We are confident, that he will make things happen.
On behalf of my colleague senior film citizens and on behalf of the creative industry in Ghana, I salute the President. He deserves a round of applause. Even as we clap, I can only pray that he will go the way of his former Nigerian counterpart, President Goodluck Jonathan who, in April 2013, announced a three-billion-naira grant for the Nigerian film industry.
In addition, through his instrumentality, the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) extended 2.1 billion naira in loans to a number of companies involved in film production, cinemas, and distribution. This investment has evolved, because film production in Nigeria has become the third income generation industry. Yes, WE CAN!
Shall we, in a few months or years from now, be saying the same about President Akuffo Addo? Yes, we shall. I would like us to recognize the relentless effort of our sector Minister, Mrs Barbara Oteng Gyasi, to make the creative art a career to be proud of.
To Mr David Ato Dontoh, to Juliet Yaa Asantewaa Asante and all other Executive Members of the Film Authority, I say Ayekoo. So far, so good. Long live Ghana Film Industry, long live Ghana Film Authority.
#Ghana #GhanaFilms #AfricanCinema #LocalContent