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BLACK STAR FILMS: A Worthless Venture

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

It is confounding, mind-boggling and galling to actually come to terms with the fact that, of all the grave challenges facing the Ghana Film Industry, the entire industry is wasting precious time and energy to exert on a venture that brings absolutely nothing to the progress of the industry.

The National Film Authority (NFA) expended time and resources to facilitate the process of branding the Ghana Film Industry to Black Star Films.

If that was not depressing enough, stakeholders are now applying energy in protesting against the selection of the new brand name. The contention is that, the wording ‘Black Star’ is already in the system, an international film festival tagged, ‘Black Star International Film Festival’ owned by the Executive Secretary of the NFA, Ms. Juliet Asante.

A petition, with several signatures spearheaded by actor, George Quaye and others rejecting the choice of ‘Black Star Films’ – has already been presented to the Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture.

We Are Jokers

The spectacle witnessed in the last couple of days on this branding of the film industry is a depiction of how unserious we are as an industry. First, an Authority backed by law and given a mandate to help steer the industry out of the doldrums – is embarking on activities that sink an already wobbly industry further.

What makes it worse is that, when it was expected for the industry to yelp and quell such a useless enterprise, it looked on unbothered, only to start making such irksome noise after a name was selected.

Now, the industry is now in the middle of a fruitless debate on whether there were some under-hand dealings in the selection of the brand name, then effort was expended in assembling signatures to repudiate the name.

The Ministry would now, most probably, form a Committee to sit, waste more time, energy and resources to review the petition to check if it holds merit or otherwise.

Useless Venture

There’s no record of an investor refusing to inject capital in the film industry because it had no brand name. There’s also no record to show that, an international film company or individuals pooh-poohed any idea of coming to Ghana to shoot films because the industry has no brand name and of course, no international film company rejected the utilization of any personnel from Ghana to aid its production because we have no brand name.

Hollywood is not the go-to filmmaking hub in the world because it is called Hollywood. Same for other popular and industrious industries like Bollywood and Nollywood.

The NFA and its supporters on this project should show and convince cynics how the naming of the film industry affects its fortunes. The fact is, there’s no convincing on the fact that, a name would alter a higgledy-piggledy industry to an effective and attractive one.

NFA Is Lost

The National Film Authority was created based on an ACT supposed to provide the legal framework for the production, regulation, nurturing and development of the Ghanaian film industry, and for the distribution, exhibition and marketing of films and for related matters – The Development and Classification of Film Act, 2016 (Act 935).

Among the objects and functions of the NFA in the Act, there’s no stipulation of the Authority expected to initiate a drive to name the industry and there’s also no provision that requires the industry to be renamed in order for that provision to suffice – none.

The most critical elements in the Act that need critical attention, the NFA and its Executive Secretary decided to shirk and rather focus on some nonsensical process that does nothing to the elevation and progress of the film industry.

Among other objects, the Authority is supposed to evolve a dynamic, economically self-sustaining and culturally conscious film industry in the country in the national interest. It is expected to promote the creation of a conducive environment for the local production, distribution, exhibition and marketing of films.

As part of its functions, the Authority is to facilitate the establishment of a circuit for the distribution and marketing of Ghanaian films throughout the country and internationally plus, promote the distribution, exhibition and marketing abroad of local films.

Most importantly, it is also to oversee the Film Development Fund.

There’s No Hope

Where’s the hope for the industry when we have a law that empowers entities and individuals to help project the film industry to higher ground, yet we dabble in frivolities.

The industry has been in a ramshackle state for years and until some critical matters bedeviling it are solved, naming it ‘Heaven Films’ would not save it.

There’s no funding; filmmakers are floundering to obtain resources to shoot quality movies that would project our movies and elevate our industry. It is the reason the Film Development Fund was enshrined in the Film Act, a provision the NFA is expected to work on, but here they are, telling us that by naming the industry, ‘Black Star Films’ – there would be enough funding to aid the industry. Clap for them!

There’s no Box Office culture in Ghana and it’s due to the fact that, there are not enough cinemas across the country. The country can only boast of two cinema operators, one functional one in the capital, Accra and one not-so-functional one in Kumasi.

Filmmakers are unable to screen movies extensively in order to re-coup a little of the production expenditure.

Distribution is pivotal in the business of filmmaking. Unfortunately, the distribution system in Ghana broke down years ago, reason the ACT emphasized heavily on distribution – tasking the NFA to take distribution of movies seriously.

Then there’s training; making training institutions link up with second cycle and tertiary institutions in film education and facilitating the training of film practitioners, all functions of the Authority.

It’s Simply ‘Doomsday’

If the actions of the Authority is dreadful then the attitude of industry stakeholders in the wake of the naming of the industry signifies doom for the industry.

The NFA did not embark on that useless venture in the dark. It made public every step of the process including the day of voting for the brand name. It announced its intention of offering a new name for the industry and even formed a Committee to preside over the process – a group that included some astute personalities such as Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, Mr. Kwabena Agyekum and Mr. Abeiku Sagoe among others.

These industry folks, who are now being a nuisance, appending signatures to some petition to reject the brand name were all in Ghana and privy to all the processes that culminated in the announcement of the name, yet, they stayed silent and watched, unconcerned. They are now here, kicking a fuss and ultimately becoming part of a bigger mess.

Doomsday for the industry is here and Jesus can’t save us!

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