Opinion

VERY ALIVE! Ghanaian Movies Not Dead: ‘Azali’ & ‘Burial of Kojo’ On the Move

By Arnold Asamaoh-Baidoo

For a longtime, there’s been virtually nothing eventful in the Ghanaian movie landscape. In fact, some critics have even tagged the industry as ‘dead’ – and they could have been right some months and weeks ago, considering the lack of luster, vibrancy, promotion and support it has garnered over the period.

Even ‘Kumawood’, the film industry based in the Ashanti Region – heavily touted for saving the entire Ghanaian movie industry with regards to level of activity, has, in the last couple of years, lost its glory.

The actuality is; it’s a misnomer for anybody to state that the industry is dead, especially when we still have producers churning out movies, organizing premieres and doing their bit to keep the industry quite buoyant.

What has been missing is that buzz, the talk and attention fixated on our industry, both local and international – and thankfully, within a matter of days, two Ghanaian movies, ‘Azali’ and ‘The Burial of Kojo’ have changed the narrative.

Huge Feat

Recognition is always good and it evens gets better when such acknowledgement is international, which is testament that, the product has achieved quality standards and got the nod of well-respected industries and practitioners worldwide.

For ‘Azali’ and ‘The Burial of Kojo’ to attain critical international mention is an enormous feat for an industry that has teetered to gain any meaningful international accolades over the years.

The two movies have been able to get the attention of two of the most recognized and heavily revered movie award schemes in the world – the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards.

For the past 90 years, the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences have given international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership to deserving movies and for the past 75years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in the name of the Golden Globe Awards, have recognized excellence in television and films, both domestic and foreign.

The Burial of Kojo

For the past 75 years since the inception of the Golden Globe Awards, no Ghanaian-produced movie has ever been marked for consideration for the awards. It took decades for Blitz Bazawule together with his partners and his Ghanaian acting contingent in the film, to break the jinx.

The movie is being considered for possible nominations in two (2) categories; Best Motion Picture for Foreign Language Film and Best Director in a Motion Picture for Blitz Bazawule.

The movie has already garnered such rave reviews and plaudits internationally; winning the Best Narrative Feature (World Cinema) at the Urban World Film Festival in New York, Best Narrative Feature at the Luxor African Film Festival in Egypt and 2 awards at the 2019 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) – Best Director for Blitz and Best Young/Promising Actor for Cynthia Dankwa.

Before the various recognition, Blitz had notched another enviable feat – linking up with the renowned film producer/director, Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Distribution Company, which released the Ghanaian movie on the popular streaming service Netflix on 31 March 2019, making it the first Ghanaian film to premiere in selected countries worldwide, on Netflix.

Azali

Unlike the ‘The Burial of Kojo’ which had some appropriate international links in terms of distribution and placing, ‘Azali’ had virtually nothing, yet, it has made such an incredible showing across the world.

For the past 90 years, no Ghanaian movie has been able to pass through the rigorous criteria even to make it to the consideration stage of the scheme but a movie made in the Northern part of the country with an all Ghanaian cast, has been able to pass every single standard required.

Directed by Kwabena Gyansah, produced by Ananse Entertainment with support from Motion Revolution, both Ghanaian companies – ‘Azali’ became the first Ghanaian movie ever to be presented to the Oscars by the Ghana Academy Board for possible consideration and nomination.

Before this feat, the movie had already made such stellar waves; getting massive props at various international festivals and winning awards, both domestic and international. At the 2018 Africa International Film Festival, it won 3 major awards; Best Female Performance, Best Screenplay and Best Feature Film. It also won over five awards including ‘Golden Most Promising Actor/Actress’, ‘Golden Sound Track’, ‘Golden Cinematography’, ‘Golden Movie Drama’ and the ultimate, ‘Best Movie’ at the 2019 Golden Movie Awards.

Make the Noise Louder

The two Ghanaian films have made history, with the Oscars and the Golden Globe respectively, and we could all rest and bask in that glory but that’s just not enough.

Being considered for these prestigious awards is a big step but the biggest honour lies in getting shortlisted or nominated for the categories and that should be the topmost priority.

It must also be stated that, the ability of these films to make it into the respective shortlisting is based on technicalities, overseen by a Board or Committee of experts, however, these body of experts are also humans that listen and see the level of noise made about a movie.

They have feelings and have other human tendencies and can definitely be swayed by the critical mention the movies receive in the media space, both traditional and social.

It is therefore imperative that as Ghanaians, especially the media, we make all the necessary noise to ensure that even the Presidents for the Oscars and the Golden Globe hear about these brilliant movies from Ghana.

The Industry Needs Support

Constantly, the message has been resounding and unequivocal; we need support. Even without Corporate and Governmental support, these Ghanaian producers and directors are projecting Ghana and the Ghanaian story to higher heights. One can only imagine if there were proper legislation, directives and adequate funding to propel our industry.

There’s enough empirical evidence to prove that, there’s so much economic relief in the arts industry. All we have to do is explore and exploit the potentials that exist.

We do not want any situation where Government won’t support but would be quick to take the shine and quickly make these hardworking producers, directors and actor ambassadors after they go win these honours.

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