TOTALLY OFF! Ghana – Indian Films MOU; A Misplaced Priority

Last week, news was rife on the announcement by Ghana’s High Commission to India, Mike Ocquaye Jnr. concerning a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between filmmakers in Ghana and a section of the India film industry.

First of all, there’s nothing spectacular about this announcement and there’s little to rejoice over some understanding with the film industry in India, at a time when there’s a myriad of critical matters confronting our film industry.

At this stage, a signed MOU with Bollywood will do little to shape and solve the teething problems that have crippled our industry and causing stakeholders to flounder. What is even surprising is how the different groupings in the film industry have kept silent and are acting nonchalant over the seeming noise being made over this MOU.

Who Are The Filmmakers?

According to the High Commissioner, the agreement was signed between Bollywood and filmmakers in Ghana.  The question is; who are these filmmakers?

The industry is fraught with lots of groupings – there’s the Film Producers Association of Ghana, Ghana Actors Guild, Film Crew Association, and other splinter groups. So, which filmmakers signed this agreement and with which office or group from the Indian Film Industry?

The High Commissioner comes out to make such an announcement with very scanty information on what this MOU is all about, and we are hailing him and his outfit like he just solved the problems of the industry.

The film industry falls under the direct auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, yet, the Commissioner failed to even mention it in the scheme of whatever MOU has been signed.

Who in Bollywood signed this MOU? Is it the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Film & Television Producers Guild of India or the Film Actors Guild of India?

Bollywood To Strengthen Our Industry?

Ghana’s High Commissioner to India, in his interview with Joy News also mentioned that the collaboration with Bollywood is important in strengthening Ghana’s film industry.

At this stage where our film industry is in tatters, it is laughable for the Commissioner to think and blurt out that, such a partnership would fortify our industry.

What would strengthen our industry now, is the passing of a Legislative Instrument (LI) for the Film Act, the formation of the National Film Board and the creation of the Film Fund. What would bolster our industry is to generate and pass the Creative Arts Bill, form the Creative Arts Council and create the Creative Arts Fund. The implementation of the directives in the Cultural Policy is what would strengthen the industry.

A couple of months ago, thousands of filmmakers marched through the streets of Kumasi peacefully and demonstrated on the many issues bedeviling the industry, after which a petition was presented to the Asantehene.

If the complaints in that petition were given the needed attention by the Government, the industry would somehow be strengthened.

Bollywood Not the Biggest Film Industry

“The Americans have done it with Hollywood. The Nigerians have done it with Nollywood but the Indian film industry is the biggest in the world,” Mr. Ocquaye Jnr. emphasized.

The Commissioner passed that comment, possibly to put some credence to the MOU, but that statement is not entirely correct.

Hollywood, the American film industry is the biggest film industry and the leading film market by gross box office revenue in the world. It is the most established film industry on the planet and considered the richest film industry as far as income is concerned. Between 2009 and 2015, Hollywood showed great power amongst the film industries grossing around $10 billion annually. In 2016, Hollywood generates $11.6 billion making it the most profitable film industry in the world.

As the biggest film market in the world, Hollywood had box office revenue of 10.31 billion in 2016 with China being the second largest market in 2016, with box office revenue of 8.17 billion U.S. dollars that year.

Bollywood, however, is only the largest film market in the world with regard to the number of films produced. It laid roots around 103 years ago. In 2009 India delivered an aggregate of 2,961 movies incorporating around 1,288 featured films. It has the biggest number of admission.

We Are As Good As The Indians

There’s nothing extraordinary to the Indian Film Industry especially when it comes to the quality of production. The elements of set, costume, special effect and cinematography are sub-standard, not different from the many productions that emanate from Kumawood.

The Commissioner has the strongest conviction that India’s status, as the largest industry in the world would elevate our industry to some height, but he forgets that, Bollywood is where it is because, it got its structures in place.

Bollywood films are multi-million dollar productions, with the most expensive productions costing up to 1 billion rupees (roughly USD 20 million). It has adequate funding from Indian Banks, private companies/distributors, financial institutions and large studios.

Fortunately for us, we have the expertise – from production, technical and the actors. All we need are funding, resources, the structures, legislation and the policies to make us reach our true potential as a film industry.

The High Commissioner to India should rather direct his focus and expend energy in sensitizing the government to attend to the needs of the Ghanaian film industry and he would realize that we as good as Bollywood, if not better.

The Indians Have Always Been Here

“They will come and spend money in our hotels. They will spend money in terms of food. Use the carpenters here to build the stage,” the High Commissioner also said.

We know this, that, expatriates coming to Ghana for business would translate into some revenue to the economy, and candidly, foreigners have been coming all the time, yet, the carpenters are still hungry, food is expensive and hotels are also expensive, plus, the film industry still suffers.

So, the emphasis on the Indians coming to spend on hotels and on carpentry is not the saving grace for our relegated film industry. In fact, the Indians have been with us, doing business with us for decades. Indians own most businesses in Ghana, so, the coming of Indian filmmakers to Ghana is nothing new!

With very scanty detail on this MOU, it becomes another ‘talk shop’, a case of government saying and seemingly doing something for applause and shirking the real problems confronting the industry. We must open our eyes and speak to power!

Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo, www.entertainmentgh



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