Ghanaian movies and by extension the movie industry in Ghana was the toast of indigenes within and fellow Africans beyond our borders years back even before the attainment of independence.
Mention can be made of infamous movies like I Told You So, Love Brewed in African Pot, The Boy Kumasenu and Kukurantumi Road to Accra as some of the box office hits at the time. Our cinemas were very busy not only on weekends filled with audiences but even on a busy working day, many passed through the cinemas to watch movies to entertain themselves. The movie industry was really not only for the purposes of entertaining the masses but was purposefully and strategically positioned to extol the Ghanaian culture and also to refocus our attention to appreciate, accept and practice what our true identity was.
Years down the lane, our movie industry experienced a nose dive and almost evaporated into oblivion. Our cinemas were no more and our actors and actresses were hardly heard of and scarcely was a movie script written. The subtle period of quietness created a big vacuum in our movie space. It was as though Ghanaians have also lost interest in movies entirely until the Nigeria movie industry popularly called the Nollywood had to spread its tentacles beyond its borders and luckily found Ghana as a safe have to nurture and popularise their brand. Indeed Nigeria movies were very successful in Ghana and their actors became household names, their language was adopted into ours and their costumes found their way into our churches, parties and marriage ceremonies.
During this period, the media in Ghana was feeding the masses with foreign content. Soap opera was the craze of the time. People traveled far and near to go watch soap operas like the Sunset Beach, Oshin, Esmeralda, La Usupadora etc. It was obvious that soap opera had come to take over our movie industry and was somewhat competing with Nigeria movies for media space on our own Ghanaian turf. The media as a tool for informing, educating and entertaining, is also a powerful platform for changing attitudes through a long period of exposure. The battle that was started years back to indoctrinate the Ghanaian to accept what was our own appeared to have faded and our sudden rise in the movie industry and as pacesetters on the continent appeared to have sunk into the belly of history.
When the focus turned to more soap opera and even more soap operas, the need to wriggle ourselves out of this menace caught on well with a few who still believed in the worth of our arts. Gradually but with enormous efforts by some industry players, the movie industry took shape again. Our actors and actresses were now accepted and hailed by us. We painstakingly but quickly run away from foreign culture and we started telling our own stories, in our own languages, by our own people, in our own settings, wearing our own costumes. Not long, our movies began gaining international status and a few actors and actresses winning international laurels.
Sad enough, we could not sustain the ‘hype’ for long. Years on, the movie industry has given way to soap operas again. Though the Kumawood movies are still admired by many, it has in recent times failed to pull the crowd that it used to. On almost all television networks today, their programmes are inundated with heavy doses of soap operas. Its sudden rise has undoubtedly overshadowed the movie industry once more. What it means therefore is that, our culture will soon be forgotten paving way to Mexican, Spanish, Indian and Brazilian cultures.
After 59 years of independence it is sad to see where we are and it is obvious we should not be here in the first place. A call for a rise means a call for a lot of investments into the industry both from government and private hands. This battle can be won if we wake up and wake very fast to confront our challenges. We lose the battle and we lose it so badly when we decide to bury our arms in between our laps.
In recent times, our own Abraham Attah has shown to the world and even to the Ghanaian especially who may not give him the chance that we have potentials and we need platforms to show what we have. The sky may be ‘their limit’ but for us it is our stepping stone. The urgency to revamp the industry cannot be treated lightly and the need for all stakeholders to act on it the well it will be for us all.
By Philip Acquaye