Exactly a week ago today, South African filmmaker Tim Greene posted a video on his Facebook page accompanied by this text “THIS IS INSANE! Turns out Ghana's biggest movie this year is a word-for-word rip-off of our movie SKEEM!”
The video Greene posted was a short compilation of two films: one he directed and titled Skeem and the other produced and directed by Ghana’s young up and coming filmmaker Kofi Asamoah and titled John and John.
Obviously, Greene was lamenting that Asamoah had had skimmed more than he was legally allowed to skim from Skeem (pun noted). “The producers who own the film shoud have been paid a Remake Fee. But they never made contact. Just went ahead and copied the movie! Wild,” he lamented on the post.
On that thread there were various comments, but it was mostly to bash Asamoah in particular as stealing another’s intellectual property and Ghanaians in general as thieves of intellectual property.
Some of the commenters had urged Greene to take on Asamoah in court to seek damages for what he had done to him. But he declined as he had discussed with his lawyers and they had agreed that the benefits to be derived from such a case would not be commensurate with the costs to be incurred.
Thus although he is very certain his intellectual property has been stolen, the cost-benefit analysis he had done convinces him that coming after Asamoah would be to his disadvantage, financially so he’d rather let it go.
I agree without equivocation that John and John is one of the biggest films made this year. If for nothing at all the cast with the likes of Pete Edochie, John Dumelo, Lilwin and others as well as the razzmatazz that greeted the premieres says a lot about the worth of the movie. That and Keteke are, in my view are the biggest movies this year.
Not too long after the movie was released on the market, I watched Pundits on GhOne where host George Quaye and his panel including Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo and Kofi Asamoah himself were discussing the film, especially about whether it was a remake or an adaptation.
As it turned out, Asamoah argued strongly that it was an adaption and even made the case that he mentioned that at the press conference to launch the movie. He also said categorical that he sought the permission of Greene to adapt his movie.
It is the reason why this revelation on Facebook by Tim Greene comes as a surprise for some. The one who did a similar movie said he got the needed permission and then from the left field we get hit by the one from whom the supposed was obtained saying he knows nothing about it.
If the enormity of this has not hit you then you probably don’t understand the issues. One of the biggest crimes one can commit in academia and the arts is pick the work of someone without due recognition. As it is now, we do not know who exactly Asamoah sought permission from, if indeed he did as he said on that show that I watched, at least until we hear from him.
As it is now though, he stands accused of plagiarising someone else’s work. As previously mentioned, this film had a big and high profile cast and I wonder what they will think about this. That they have been used as pawn in this game or it is something that can be explained to them.
Not to mention the international “exposure” this has given Ghana. For instance there was a banter between Greene a few Ghanaians under his post that sought to say that plagiarism was a big deal in Ghana.
When a commenter asked Greene to “send a statement to a Ghanaian daily, its news worthy maybe they'll publish it; you'll get some traction free of charge that way which might lead somewhere useful” he responded that “a ton of Ghanaian journalists reaching out. It seems plagiarism is a big thing up there that people are actually very worked up about.”
This led to a back and forth between him and a Ghanaian commenter called Adwoa Kakra. She tagged Ghanaian media person Kwame Gyan and asked “are u seeing this? “He says we are known for plagiarism.”
Greene explained that he did not mean Ghanaians were plagiarists but that Ghanaians are concerned about the situation. “Please read what I wrote more carefully. I didn't say "you were known for plagiarism", I said Ghanaians themselves seem very concerned about plagiarism,” he said.
However this is interpreted however, there is a case to be answered and we need to be sure if Asamoah indeed had permission from the producers. If not, I don’t know if there is any higher authority that would demand some retribution for such an act, but something has got to be done about it.