By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
It’s a no brainer that the creative industry needs support, especially the film industry, which needs succour including funding but quite disappointingly, the Ghanaian film industry has lacked such critical aid in a longtime.
Interestingly, when government and corporate firms are accused of not helping enough, the argument has always been that, practitioners of the creative industry are not united, are disorganized and have always been confused.
If anybody ever doubted the confusion card that has overly been used by critics of the industry, then the recent happenings with the construction of film village should serve as a testament that in deed, the creative industry is a confused one.
Film Village Is Necessary
A film village represents a hub of filmmaking, a site that is solely dedicated to the industry of filmmaking. That location is strategically developed to house film studios, productions, training, distribution and marketing of films. All other related events including premiering of movies and film festivals can be organized at the ‘village’.
It is an undeniable fact that films do project the culture and traditions of a people and have been properly used to set agenda for States. It is no wonder that some governments go all out to support their film industries because of the enormous benefits derived from the industry.
With all the activities that go on at film villages, there’s a huge opening for jobs with regard to the plethora of professionals that will be needed in putting up and maintaining such a project. Persons in architecture and construction will be employed in putting up such a project and professionals in a vast industry of movie making would also get some leverage in relation to jobs.
A well-planned and a well-looked-after film village always serves as a good tourist attractive. The never-ending benefits of tourism cannot be over-emphasized; there’s mileage for the aviation and road transport, hospitality business, and the movie industry plus development of communities close to the film village is well assured.
In setting up a film village, tourism is uplifted, the economy improves, the people are happy and the government is happy.
History of Confusion
Players within the film industry have respective tales on when and how the idea of the construction of a film village in Ghana was birthed. Members of the group, Creative Arts Forum in Kumasi claim they initiated the move for the construction, while Ola Michael, a former Executive of the Film Producers also assert that, the conceptualization of such an idea was first mooted by the National Democratic Party (NDC).
However, what we know as facts are these;
This present government, in its 2019 Budget, stated that, a film village would be constructed in the Eastern Region. The folks at ‘Kumawood’, the film industry in the Ashanti Region protested vehemently, claiming loosely that their industry was the hub of film making in Ghana, thus, the construction of any film village must be situated in that region.
Days after such protestation, the Creative Arts Council issued a statement, stating that, after consideration, government has decided to fix 2 villages, one in the Eastern Region, the other in the Ashanti Region.
Fast track to this time, the government through the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture is indecisive on where to construct the village. One moment, it says, the village would go to Sekyere, the other moment, it says, it would aid that in Kunsu, and then it turns around to say, it is still undecided on the venue.
It has also stated that, the film village proposed for the Eastern Region was/is an initiative of international film superstar, Idris Elba, and that, government now intends to construct a cultural village in that region.
Where We Stand Now
In a stakeholder meeting in Kumasi, Friday, September 18, 2020, Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture, Barbara Oteng Gyasi said the Government of Ghana among other agencies partnered for the construction had not settled on a site for the film village yet.
“A decision has not been taken yet on the exact site for the Film Village yet, although we know it would be built in the Ashanti Region. We have so far been presented with three (3) sites including Hemang, Sekyere and Kunsu,” she said.
She also dismissed claims by the Creative Arts Forum in the Ashanti Region over the relocation of the film village from Kunsu to Sekyere in the Region and assured industry players of plans to assist the already existing film village in Kunsu to access the Ghana Tourism Development Project Fund for site developers to help them continue production ahead of the intended new project.
While some major film stakeholders are vouching for the construction in Kunsu, others are vying for Sekyere, with talk that, land documentation for the two sites have already been presented with Kunsu already having something like a mini- film village with production already happening.
For Hemang, which seems like the least touted in the tussle, has its Chiefs also presenting lands for such a project.
Politics at Play?
Politics has always been at play since the announcement of the project. From the proposal of it being situated in Eastern Region to the Ashanti Region, it has always been shrouded in politics.
In their protestation for the film village to come to the Ashanti Region, some respected stakeholders from Kumawood threatened to galvanize members of their fraternity not to vote for the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) should they construct the project in the Eastern Region.
The Government, via its Ministry is obviously becoming the big player in the politics of the construction of this project. It says a decision has not been made by its technical team and partners on the exact venue, considering the 3 areas on the table, yet, it also asserts that, it will aid that in Kunsu to access funding in order to continue with what has already been started in that area. What does this really mean?
With just few months to a general election, why would a sane government make itself unpopular in its stronghold by choosing a venue and end up dissatisfying the other areas which may express their dissatisfaction by not voting for the party?
In a spate of weeks, the Minister and her lieutenants have made several trips to the region to offer updates on the decision of the government on the film village. It could not be done via any communique, not by press statements and not by word of mouth. The politics that shroud the situation compelled the Minister to move to the region to talk directly to all parties involved.
A Film Village That May Never Be
The construction of a modern film village takes a number of years to get done. Here we are, confused and not unified as an industry on where we want the project to be. In our confusion, as always, we give the government and its partners the reasonable excuse to dawdle and play such convenient politics with the situation.
If we had focus, direction and sense as an industry, we would all settle on one area and present it as unified front to government – giving it no choice and little room to maneuver with excuses.
After the general election, knowing the nature of this industry, there’s still bound to be confusion among the folks in the Ashanti Region on where the project should be – and by the time another electioneering year dawns, such a critical project that could elevate the state of our film making, the entire creative industry and the economy of Ghana may never be!