Ato Yanney Snr celebrated with His Majesty’s Sergeant

BY: Chris Nunoo
Mr Ato Yanney Snr
Mr Ato Yanney Snr

As part of activities to celebrate the life of one of Ghana's movie pioneers, Ato Kwamina Yanney Snr, who passed on close to a decade now, one of his prime movies titled: His Majesty's Sergeant is currently on Kanopy, an on-demand online video platform based in San Francisco, California, USA.

His Majesty’s Sergeant, which was originally shot in 1984, is a feature on the role of African soldiers in the second world war, re-edited and registered under the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

It was launched in Slough in the United Kingdom by Big “H” Entertainment, UK and Flamboyant Films, the Ghanaian production company, in March 2011 after its initial disappearance from a British film laboratory for close to 25 years.

The film has already been screened for research purposes in universities such as Harvard University Centre for African Studies, Boston University and Southern Methodist University, Dallas among other institutions.

Participants in film festivals such as the London African Film Festival, Delhi Film Festival and the centenary celebration of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Goethe Institute and Alliance Francaise in Ghana have also had a feel of “His Majesty’s Sergeant”.

The cast includes Tommy Ebow Ansah, Surrinder Singh Ghuman, Tony Trent, George Williams and Rev. Dr Chris Tsui Hesse, who also doubled as the Director of Photography.

Speaking to The Mirror about the exploits of his late father, Mr Ato Yanney Jnr, his filmmaker son, said the film would be donated to the British Film Institute (BFI) for storage and for research purposes after a new scan at the Cinelab facility in Slough was completed.

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Mr Yanney Jnr said the film was currently being distributed worldwide by Sanya Communications, a United Kingdom-based company.

The late Ato Kwamina Yanney Snr worked at the Ghana High Commission in London as a local recruit, and later enrolled at the London School of Film Technique where he studied Screenplay Writing and Directing.

He then proceeded to London University to pursue a degree in Film Critique and Appreciation, and wrote short stories which were broadcast on BBC Home Servic.

One of the stories that he is fondly remembered for is the Ominous Sneeze in the 1960s which was broadcast to British audience.

Born on January 22, 1933 at Senya Beraku in the Central Region of Ghana, Ato Yanney Snr returned to Ghana from the UK to join the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (Now Gama Film Company) in 1963, where he became the Head of Production of the corporation. He again left to study at the Feature and Documentary Film Studios in Poland.

The late Yanney Snr, as part of his contribution to the arts, was also instrumental in the establishment of the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) after mooting the idea.

He was also responsible for the grooming of celebrated film directors such as George Bosompim, Ivan Quashigah, Yaw Boakye and William Tamakloe.

Among the films associated with the late Yanney Snr are the Market Day, Cult of Twins, Population Census, Golden Pod, Rainbow Colours, New Breed, Genesis Chapter X (screenplay), No Tears for Ananse (screenplay), Death on Wheels and The Last Show.

“My late father was also a regular contributor to articles on social, political and religious issues in the national dailies such as the Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times,” Ato Yanney Jnr added.

Mr Yanney Snr, according to his son, was honoured for his contribution to the development of the Ghanaian film industry in general and in film production and directing in particular during the 40th anniversary celebration of the industry.

He was also awarded with a Certificate of Distinction in Scriptwriting during the centenary of world cinema and the GAFTA Osagyefo Awards posthumously for his works promoting pan-Africanism, in addition to awards in Germany and Poland.