When fundamentals of creative industry are weak, criticism will expose you

Gabby Otchere-Darko

Before I touch on the subject matter of this article, let me situate this properly to lay the foundation for my case.

Ghana, after the success chalked by ‘Deadly Voyage’ in 1996, lost out on another juicy international movie deal because the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) was sold.

That film, ‘Amistad’, directed by Steven Spielberg, had a budget of $36 million and it made $44.2 million at the Box Office. Ghana’s economy would have possibly benefitted from about a third of that budget or even more.

It is sad to note that, ‘Amistad’ was taken to a different country – Benin- because by then, government had sold 70 percent of its equity in the GFIC to the Malaysian television production company, Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Berhad of Kuala Lumpur. The GFIC was renamed ‘Gama Media System Ltd’.

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Some respected industry players, including Oscar Provencal (if you are old enough, you will remember him as Inspector Bediako), recounted how they had to salvage some films and documentaries on Ghana that were thrown into a garbage bin. The foreigner will definitely not respect you for your history and culture if you don’t value it yourself.

However, before that sale, even after numerous protests from industry persons, it is important to note that the numerous military coup d’états – particularly that of 1981 – also contributed greatly to the demise of the Ghana film industry.

Before and in between the coup d’états, the Ghana film industry had seen some glory years. Ghana recorded some memorable and enviable feats in filmmaking and was making waves in West Africa and across Africa.

History will tell you that before the much respected Kwaw Ansah gave Ghanaians ‘Love Brewed in the African Pot’ which starred Reginald Tsiboe and Anima Misa Amoah in 1980 and ‘Heritage Africa’ starring Kofi Bucknor in 1988, there were some major productions that grabbed the headlines.

Films like the very first Ghanaian film shot on celluloid ‘The Boy Kumasenu’ (1952) directed by British Director Sean Graham, ‘Baby Ghana’ (1957), Jean Rouch, ‘Genesis Chapter X’ (1977), Tom Riberio and starring George Williams, and ‘I Told You So’ (1970) directed by Egbert Adjeso made the cinema-going experiences of Ghanaians and foreigners alike memorable. The cinema was probably, the best place to ‘toast’ a girl.

Actors like Lord Bob Cole and Margaret ‘Araba Stamp’ Quainoo became household names.

In the latter years of the industry, one cannot forget to mention David Dontoh and Evans Hunter in ‘The Road to Kukurantumi’ (1984) by King Ampaw.

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The sale of GFIC and the coup d’états crippled the movie industry. With no care and no support, the industry is still struggling to find its feet.

That sale gave a clear indication of the government’s lack of respect for the creative arts industry. V8s are, in fact, today more important than the creative industry.

Now, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko.

Currently, movie producers are struggling, with little or no support from investors and government, to make do with the little they have or get. They are trying their best to inject some life/hope into an industry that is on life support.

With these challenges almost suffocating the industry, it is disheartening to hear people close to power – who can help breathe some life into the industry – denigrate the efforts of a hopeful people who are trying their best under the difficult situation.

For those who may not have heard, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko recently ruffled some feathers with his post on Facebook that he felt disheartened after watching 10 random Ghanaian movies.

“I took my time to watch randomly ten Ghanaian movies and never felt so disappointed. It brought home to me one major deficiency in our development. The apparent lack of deliberate consciousness on the part of the creative industry in the development conversation,” he said in the post.

Mr Otchere-Darko noted that “The presence of the creative industry appears at best peripheral in Ghana’s development narrative. Our movies, our songs, our arts, by and large, do not impactfully plug into a greater development agenda.”

Those comments haven’t gone down well with some industry persons including Yvonne Nelson, Lydia Forson, Adjetey Anang and Kafui Danku.

Following the huge uproar that greeted the comments, Mr Otchere-Darko, who is a close confidant of President Akufo-Addo, in another post, clarified that his comments about Ghana’s movie industry were only meant to provoke a debate.

According to him, his expression of disappointment with some movies produced in the country, was not aimed at denigrating the hard work of practitioners.

But Mr Otchere-Darko, I am very sorry to say that what you have done has not provoked a healthy debate but rather exposed your ignorance of the real issues on the ground and perhaps your government’s lack of appreciation of the potentials of Ghana’s creative arts.

It is always easy to blame but admitting the challenges facing the industry and helping fix them is difficult.

In the lead up to the 2016 elections, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) made some key promises to the creative arts industry. With the exception of a few jobs for the boys – the tourism ambassadors and Agya Koo TV, none of the promises in the NPP manifesto has been achieved.

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Key among those promises is the construction of national theatres, like that of Accra in the other regions of the country.

Some industry players were disappointed to hear that, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Iddi said the NPP did not promise to build new theatres across the ten regions of Ghana.

Dr Ziblim told JoyNews’ MzGee that, “when we said regional theatres we were not alluding to the fact that we were going to start from scratch. All across the country, we have the Arts Centre projects coming up so regional arts centres some of them have reached stages 70% – 80% so we just have to complete them. There are some regions [that we] have to pull the old structures down.”

When it comes to countries like the US, there was a deliberate effort by successive governments to fund and support Hollywood to grow. That was done because; successive governments, just like other countries, know the immense benefits of their creative industry.

Creative industries the world over are powerful tools used by governments and individuals to change narratives and the images of their countries.

America, since my childhood, used their movies to make me believe that it is the most powerful country on earth. Through their movies, they made the world yearn for the American dream – the dream of freedom and wealth. Their movies can let you leave our enviable ‘Waakye’ for their burgers.

History also had it that, Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, loved the creative arts. He travelled with Ghanaian bands on his trips as a way of marketing Ghanaian music and entertainment personalities.

Without strong foundations, funds and Bills – like the creative arts bill – to support the industry, the creative arts, which has the potential of reducing unemployment and helping catapult the economy – like in the case of Nigeria which is now Africa’s largest economy. That push was necessitated by the Nigerian creative industry.

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Mr Otchere-Darko, it is unfair to criticize an industry that has received nothing or no support from your government.

Being close to a President who made time to welcome Shatta Wale to the Jubilee House, puts you in a unique position to whisper into his (the President’s) ears that the sector Minister, Catherine Ablema Afeku’s work is not receiving great reviews among industry players.  Industry persons are not happy with her performance.

While it is good to criticise, it is better to criticise constructively.

Ernest Dela Aglanu

Journalist and Producer

The views expressed above are purely mine and do not reflect that of Myjoyonline.com and The Multimedia Group.

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