Film Business

OPINION: “The Ghana Film Industry is on The Brink of Death . . .” by Jot Agyeman

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AML film practitioners, this is a piece worth reading. There are some interesting stories and a bit of legal drama on the film end. I look forward to getting to it this week with you all.

Cheers,

Uduak

The state of the Ghana Film Industry is dire. I have sat back and watched keenly the semblance of a revival taking place in the industry and doff my hat to filmmakers such as Kwaw Ansah, Shirley Frimpong Manso and Leila Djansi for keeping the Film Industry alive.

Other film makers including Socrates Safo and Abdul Salam Mumuni have also made a name for themselves. I dare say however that the Ghana Film Industry is on the brink of death.

In 1948, the Gold Coast Film Unit was set up within the Information Services Department (ISD). Shortly after Independence, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah created the State Film Company which later became the Ghana Film Industry Corporation. Nkrumah built the very first complete Film facility which then included the Information Services Department film Unit building opposite the French Embassy and the whole of the Land currently housing Afrikiko restaurant at Kanda as well as the premises of TV3.

In the early days of filmmaking, stalwarts such as Rev. Chris Hesse, Tom Riberio, R.A. Fenuku, Frank Parks, Sam Aryittey and Ashong Katai gave their all to nurture an industry that was new and vibrant. From the early 1960’s all the way to the mid 1970’s, the Ghana Film Industry welcomed film makers from Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and Kenya. These students of Film came to Ghana to learn from the very best in Africa. How quickly did the tables turn!

There is no doubt that the military coup of 1981 led to the demise of the Ghana Film Industry. This I will explain later. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah set up the Ghana Film Industry and built the largest studio in West Africa in what is today known as Studio B at TV3. The premises that today holds TV3 and all the facilities including the Executive Theatre were part of Nkrumah’s plan to create an African Film Industry to rival what he had seen in America during his school days and what the Colonial Government, championed by the BBC were doing; though, he may have had a plan to use the industry to propagate his message, there is no denying that he built a well equipped, world class facility for Film Production.

In those early days long before the great Kwaw Ansah gave us ‘Love Brewed in the African Pot’ starring Reginald Tsiboe and Anima Misa Amoah in 1980 and ‘Heritage Africa’ starring Kofi Bucknor in 1988, Ghana had recorded some achievable feats in filmmaking such as the very first Ghanaian Film shot on celluloid ‘The Boy Kumasenu’ (1952) directed by British Director Sean Graham, and others such as ‘Baby Ghana’(1957) directed by Jean Rouch, ‘Genesis Chapter X’ (1977) directed by Tom Riberio and starring George Williams, and ‘I Told You So’ (1970) directed by Egbert Adjeso. Indeed, actors such as Lord Bob Cole and Margaret ‘Araba Stamp’ Quainoo became household names during this period. The presence of Kwaw Ansah and King Ampaw paved the way for a new generation of Actors and filmmakers to emerge. David Dontoh and Evans Hunter are remembered in ‘The Road to Kukurantimi’ (1984) by King Ampaw.

With the emergence of Video, the Ghana Film Industry Corporation had to re-adjust to be competitive. Their very first video starring David Dontoh and Mavis Odonkor and also directed by Tom Riberio was called ‘Dede’. The Company went on to produce several films including ‘A Stab in the Dark’ (1998) starring Pascaline Edwards and Edinam Atatsi and ‘Baby Thief’ (1991) which launched the acting career of John Dumelo.

I have no doubt that the foundation for the demise of the Ghana Film Industry is steeped in the Jerry John Rawlings led PNDC and NDC Governments. The film industry was seen as a drain on government resources then, so the PNDC and NDC Governments starved the Company of funds gradually bringing it to its knees. Moreover, it became apparent that the Government had no use for a Ghana Film Industry Corporation which with the exception of GBC and perhaps the ISD had the largest collection of authentic Ghanaian film both on celluloid and on Video. Thai company BEC-TERO set up TV3 in 1997 and sold it off two years later. In 1999, Media Prima of Malaysia took over TV3 and annexed the GFIC renaming it GAMA Film Company Ltd with Government as a shareholder. Outrage by Filmmakers over the sale at that time fell on deaf ears.

There is evidence that the Malaysians were not interested in GAMA; their primary objective was Television and together with their Ghanaian partners including heavyweights in the Rawlings Government, GAMA was again starved of cash to operate. The incentive to take over the Ghana Film Industry Corporation was simple. The facilities were already in place, they had the studios and the equipment which TV3 could readily use. It is important to note that the Kufuor-led NPP Government did not also make any firm commitments to reviving the industry but also sat on the fences watching filmmakers struggle to get their films made.

According to the terms of reference, the Malaysians had 10 years to operate the business. In 2010, the agreement with Media Prima of Malaysia ended so TV3 was quietly put up for sale and the Government of Ghana already a shareholder in GAMA regained its shares in GAMA to once again become 100% share holder.

Filmmakers who heard the news at that time were ecstatic that the dream of Nkrumah to create a vibrant Film Industry could finally be realised. The facilities of the Ghana Film Industry Corporation were once again available to filmmakers and the staff of the company gloried in a new beginning for GFIC. They were wrong! Certainly the priority of the Mills led Government in 2011 was not filmmaking in Ghana.

When the Coleman-led administration of GAMA, after Government took control, decided to charge TV3’s new owners rent of $26, 000. 00 for the use of their premises so they could raise seed capital to revive the fortunes of the ailing Corporation, a Deputy Minister of Information at that time, asked him to proceed on leave. All staff of GAMA also went home. Ironically, the very Filmmakers charged to make and preserve our heritage were shoved out of GAMA. It is not surprising then that GAMA was again placed on divestiture and within three months was snapped up by the new owners of TV3 giving them full control of all the facilities. This brought to an end over 60 years of the Ghana Film Industry Corporation. . .

GhanaCelebrities.com has the full story.

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