A couple of days ago, I was watching television with my niece. A young girl just turned 10 years old and very impressionable. Her body is still developing and so is her sense of who she is. Beautiful, black, short hair, white teeth and at this stage, not very graceful yet.
Many times I catch her talking to her imaginary friends and I happily join in, for I understand very deeply the power of the imagination as a filmmaker.
As I sat with her, I couldn’t help but noticed how different the image she was watching was from her. This beautiful animated girl on TV had beautiful pink skin, flowing blond hair, blue green eyes, honey milk voice and everything my niece definitely wasn’t… on the outside at least.
My mind wondered to myself as a young girl growing up in Liberia. If anyone is old enough to remember the muppet show… Myself exactly at that age, I was ripe for teasing. I was long, dark and all over the place and so I was nicknamed Kermit the frog after the famous character in the show.
We laughed about it and I remember laughing heartily myself too when teased… but guess what, that image as a frog stayed with me.
As a beautiful young woman in later years, I would question my own beauty. Seeing beauty in everyone else, but seeing only the frog In me!
So sitting here with my niece, my mind can only travel into her future… perhaps, 5 years from now, perhaps 20 years from now. She will struggle with accepting her dark skin, she will forever wish her hair was silky soft and she will look into the mirror wishing some other color either than rich brown looked back at her.
Such is the power or imaging and the impact it has on our youth.
We have witnessed a generation of young people in the last couple of years, practically embark on suicide missions to get to the promise land of Europe and Europe on the other hand, struggling to come up with ways to prevent the crossings into their dear country of these Migrants who are nothing but a nuisance.
We have seen the United States despise the immigration process… and we have seen African countries struggle only to turn rough diamond into crystals and nothing more than clear quartz.
The question usually is; where did we go wrong?
But let me today ask a different question? And my question is, how can we expect that young man to be any better than the thief, the weakling, the corrupt person we always show him to be? How do we expect leaders who are any better than what we show them constantly to be, who and what they are? After all, are we not constantly telling our young people through the films and television they watch that you can only make money through the easy way and that they are good for little else.
Have we stopped to wonder about the reason why a young woman will sell her entire body to buy some Brazilian hair that fell of someone’s head because they no longer wanted it? At the very least, if we wanted hair, are we not good enough to make them right here where we are? But how can we when we have been told over and over again through films that our head that grows from our head is too hard and will cause your mother Inlaw and society to think of you as unpolished? How will our men and women not kill themselves and sell themselves to get to the land of gold, at least as seen in the movies?
If for nothing else, 2020 has brought us an opportunity to stop and re access. To reconsider the fact that in Africa, we have good land and good food, which is why we are still here and not spilling out dead bodies during this COVID as was projected.
It has showed us that we have within us the potential for good leadership and that we can manage our own affairs as Ghana has demonstrated in the region and the world by the outstanding leadership demonstrated by H.E The President of Ghana.
Africa has the fastest growing consumer market and we can develop what we need right here and we have enough market around us to sell to and make enough money. That is the truth right there starring us right in the face!
Yesterday I was watching a documentary about the dangers of the food we eat. As someone whose mother just died from some illness that eating bad food gives you, I wonder why a country like Ghana that has so much good land and eats so much tomatoes imports tomatoes that is contaminated with additives that kill us when we can grow all the tomatoes we need right here, turn it into paste (god knows I turn tomatoes to paste in my own kitchen!) so why can’t an entire nation make enough tomatoe paste to feed us? Africa and all its people and land that a apparently consumes the most tomatoes has to import tomatoe paste from Italy and China? It is definitely not the lack of a market… and so it must be the limitations of our own minds…
the question is how were we told this without even realizing we were being told that we are incapable… the next time you watch a “program’ remember the word “PROGRAM”…
Perhaps let’s start to think about developing a new program that overrides the old programs we have learnt and become…
We now have the Africa continental free trade area. Let’s just step back again into the film about tomatoes. The trade agreement between African countries means that if we grow more tomatoes than we need for instance, Ghana can sell the excess to Nigeria right next door with over 200million people? No?
Imagine if we made films that showed the beautiful places we have, the beautiful people going through all odds to feed their families. The incredible stories in every corner. Imagine the additional stories brought on by COVID. Stories of survival, of strength. Stories of women who appreciated their sheep like hair that didn’t stand in their way to greatness, but gave them confidence…
If we started today, imagine what my niece will be watching and the difference your one story will make in her life.
This is the time for independent filmmakers, for African filmmakers to go deep to begin to tell stories that resonate with the people and show the people the gem they truly are and what they can become. Stories of rags to riches right here.
The African dream can happen for us, but it needs to happen first in our minds and hearts, in our films…
The last couple of years have taught us that there is a place for our stories in the world, that the world longs for a different and diverse kind of story telling; not more of the same same.
First let’s remember that when given the opportunity, people love to hear about themselves. This means that as close as Ghana is to Nigeria for instance, When done right, Nigerians, Liberia a Kenyans, Tanzanians, Ethiopians and on and one we go, would probably love to see a great Ghanain film and so is the other way round, than they would a film from other parts of the world.
Many of us have been home for most part of the year. At least now we know that ground zero truly is home. What is the role that filmmakers can play? What are the opportunities out here and there? Your story is you. Your authentic story is your diamond
And it is time for audiences to take some responsibility…
What is your story, what story will you like to see?
For until the lion learns to tell it’s own story, the hunter will always be king
#Yaamusings #YaaAsantewaAsante #JulietAsante #Bsiff #BlackStarInternationalFilmFestival #AfricanFilm #Filmfestival