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FILM VILLAGE SAGA: Much Ado About Nothing

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

There’s been a furor over the siting of a film village in Ghana and, as usual, it has taken prominence in the discourse about our industry in the last week and it looks set to continue. 

Observing the commotion, the arguments and counter-arguments, I am bewildered, and I do not hesitate to state that we are a bunch of confused, directionless and unfocused persons in this industry called show business.

The presentation of the petition against the siting of the Film Village at Kyebi to Parliament was ill-timed; the statement from the Creative Arts Council was lousy and some arguments being raised by the pro-Kumawood supporters are just irritating. 

Everybody seems to be all over the place, wanting to be heard and seen but at the end of the day, nothing will be done.

Critically, in the protestation against a so-called film village, industry persons have relegated to the background, the talk about the implementation of the Film Law (Development & Classification of Film Act 2016) and the passage of the Creative Arts Bill.

Kumawood no hub for film-making

The film industry in Kumasi, popularly known as Kumawood deserves recognition for being able to stay relevant for so long. At the time when the entire Ghanaian film industry was in turmoil, the folks in Kumawood still figured out a way to keep making movies.

Regardless of the challenges they faced in terms of quality, they kept their industry buoyant and to an extent, gave the Ghanaian film industry some relevance, and most importantly, they were able to shut down the infiltration of foreign movies into the local market.

However, the strong argument being projected about Kumawood being the hub of filmmaking in Ghana is a fallacy. The industry is extremely popular, having birthed some of the most popular actors in the country, but it is certainly not the central point or the pivot that holds the entire Ghanaian film industry.

If Kumawood were a hub, they would not be agitating for the establishment of a film village in Kumasi. The fact is, it lacks the infrastructure, the wherewithal and the market to be a hub. 

In spite of its popularity, Kumawood still relies on the opportunities and marketing platforms offered by Accra.  Regardless of how they huff and puff in Kumasi, the filmmakers in Kumawood still look to Accra and its multitude of film lovers, sponsors and marketers for validation.

Uninspiring arguments, poor response

The guys from the industry that presented the petition against the siting of the film village have the right to agitate. It is within their rights to raise issues and to proceed to let their grievances known. Congratulations to them for making their voices heard.

However, the sort of arguments emanating from some of them are uninspired. There’ve been arguments about the fact that nobody sets up a dog factory in the South when the North is there or that nobody establishes a sugar factory at a spot where there’s no cultivation of sugarcane. 

It is laughable that, in this day and age, these protesters do not realise that, everything is possible.  With money and technology, one can even make the sun appear and shine in Luxembourg and Norway for 60 days.

If some of the arguments backing the petition are lacklustre, then the statement released by the Creative Arts Council, just hours after the petition was presented to Parliament was imperceptive. It was unconvincing and disheartening.

You had relevant information that a film village would be sited in Kumasi but kept such information in your pocket, only to share it right after some noise was made.  How brilliant is such amove?

Film village can be anywhere

Hollywood, known as the home of the film industry in the US and by extension, the hub of filmmaking in the world – is a neighbourhood in the Central Region of Los Angeles, California. Hollywood was not the centre of filmmaking before it became a hub or ‘film village’; it was just a town, with virtually nothing connected to filmmaking. 

In fact, by courtesy of the founder of the place, H.J. Whitley, by 1900, Hollywood started with only a post office, newspaper, a hotel and two markets. The point is, wherever the weather is ideal, there is availability of land and quick access to various settings, a film village can be established.

The establishment of a film village is not a birthright for Kumawood, so the proponents in Kumasi should stop passing commentary that gives the impression that Kumasi is the best place or the only place fit enough to host a film village; it can go anywhere; Tamale, Asankragwa or Bawjiase.

With the right sense of direction, resources and the wherewithal, it is possible to fix a film village anywhere in Ghana.

Disunity and tribal bigotry

Disunity has been the bane of our industry for years, depriving us of well-needed support over the years.  An initiative like a film village, which would ultimately affect the industry positively, should have been embraced by all, regardless of where it would be situated.

 The loudest shouts should have been coming from all industry folks on the government actually showing us the efforts made in ensuring that the film village is not a fluke.

Here we are, bickering over where the ‘village’ should be – and in the aggression of the arguments, tribal bigotry is setting in, with people feverishly trying to belittle tribes, communities and regions, all to protect turfs.

The advantages of a film village are enormous; it is a boost for the industry, has huge prospects for job creation, training of personnel and the advantages extend to the tourism industry.

It is just right for us to advocate for that ‘village’ to be fixed at a spot that would be beneficial to everybody across the country and not just for a particular city.

Private – public partnership

Yes, the government made a commitment in the 2018 budget about setting up the film village, and must by all means, fulfill it, although nothing is being seen to have been done when it is just months to an election year.

It should be known that initiatives like film villages are also engineered by the private sector in conjunction with the government, which provides the incentives and enabling environment for such businesses to thrive.

Hollywood, which is the most recognizable film hub in the world was commenced by an individual, not government! The incessant clamor can also be directed to the point of wooing investors to create such hubs and to the government to facilitate such enterprises.

There’s talk of two villages being built; one at Kumasi in the Ashanti Region and another at Bunsu, in the Eastern Region. Assuming there’s an iota of truth in such talk, there must be some encouragement and an exhibition of optimism in ensuring that the two villages are done.

Film law & Creative Arts bill

The relegation to the back burner of discussions on the Film Law and the Creative Arts Bill is a bit worrying. What is a film village without the requisite laws and regulations that would ensure its full potential is met? 

What is a film village if it has no directives and structures to ensure that it is heavily marketed and becomes a boost to the economy? Without the law and its accompanying statues, a film village is meaningless!

In his third State of the Nation address months ago, President Akufo-Addo stated emphatically, “We have worked to finalise the Creative Arts Bill, leading to the creation of a Creative Arts Fund…”

The Film law (Development & Classification of Film Act 2016) was passed under the tenure of former president, John Mahama and the law is supposed to ensure the formation of a National Film Authority and its Governing Board, the Film Development Fund as well as the Film Classification Committee among others.

The above stated are what we need as a film industry to have a viable industry; yet, we dabble in such less important ventures on our priority list as an industry. We can do better!

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