The blood-curdling screams of a young woman being circumcised at sunrise opens the film, The New Sun. From the start, the subject matter is downright emotionally disturbing, however, that is the sense the filmmaker intends to leave with the viewer.
Set in Timbana, a village up north, Adamu Atinpanga returns to his hometown, as the first university graduate to offer his national service as a primary school teacher.
On a sunny morning, a girl is whisked away from Adamu’s class into a forced marriage. Enraged by the incident, Adamu is determined to stand up to the powers that be and fight for social change.
Despite moral support from a Catholic nun, his push is faced with stiff opposition and his call for change is written off as a Western agenda against culture and tradition.
In Ghana, FGM still exists in the northern belt, despite campaigns and laws against the practice. Director, Philip Pratt, tries to put a human face to the excruciating pain and agony women go through under the unsterilised blade of the wanzam (local term for circumciser).
Adherents of the practice believe women that are cut remain chaste as their potential for sexual pleasure are curtailed.
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With a lot on its mind, The New Sun explores themes such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early and forced marriages, domestic violence, marital rape, maternal mortality and suicide.
The film is overburdened with multiple subjects, that undermine the clarity of the storytelling, yet does not diminish the importance of the message. Pratt belabours the subject matter with multiple life stories of different characters, dragging the exhaustive plot for about two and half hours.
The New Sun delivers impressive performances from veteran actors including Kofi Adjorlolo, Fred Amugi, Kalsoume Sinare, Dzifa Glikpoe and Albert Davis Jackson. The central character, Adamu, played by Andy Tettey, shows a lot of promise in his delivery, but his performance falls short of memorable.
Without flinching, The New Sun depicts how FGM, marital rape and early marriage are tools used by society to suppress and control the sexuality and lives of women.
After undergoing FGM, girls are usually made to drop out of school and forced into early child marriage with no real control of their lives and living in constant fear of the unbearable pain they may have to go through the next time their husband wants to have sex, or when they have to give birth.
It shows that the call for FGM to be eradicated is not just a clash between modernity and tradition, but a striking moral clarity for girls to be given equal opportunities to further their education and careers.
The New Sun is a necessary reminder of how society is still patriarchal, with men unconsciously and consciously feeling threatened that gender equality will reduce their place in society. Commendably, The New Sun maps out a way forward on how change can be achieved.
Though Philip Pratt stitched together a narrative, both heart-wrenching and uplifting, it lacks the exceptional gravitas of an exceptional film that intends to be a catalyst for social change against FGM and early marriage.