Movie industry, missing link in our development

BY: Doreen Hammond
The writer
The writer

A couple of years ago, I sensed that our movie industry was taking a nosedive. 

I raised concerns about how we are missing the opportunity to use our local movies to positively educate, entertain, inform, earn some revenue and mobilise us for development. Unfortunately, the situation has persisted.

 Our local television stations, which thrive on viewership and, therefore, show what viewers love to watch, are showing foreign telenovellas and Nigerian movies, mallams doubling money and so-called pastors performing miracles and abusing children. Our local movies are seldom shown on our own screens.  Some have gone ahead to translate these telenovellas into “Twinovellas” and adapted them to suit local taste by giving characters and locations local names. How ingenious!

There have been few producers such as Kwaw Ansah who is in a different category altogether and Shirley Frimpong Manso who has made a difference, but almost on a daily basis Ghanaian producers are coming out with what they want us to believe are movies but are not.

We are still stuck in our witchcraft, sex, insults, profanity and wickedness stories. Even routine work such as sweeping, ironing and brick laying are portrayed as wickedness and suffering. What happened to dignity in labour?

We are still combining little parts of several western movies to call our own. What happened to originality?

In a movie, one family can be afflicted with so much misery that you begin to wonder what on earth is happening. How can the father of a family be an ex-convict, mother stricken with breast cancer, daughter defiled and another daughter hit by a car to her death all in the same movie? Exaggeration for effect, you may argue, but doesn’t drama have to come a little close to reality too so we can relate? Or is it science fiction or the story of Job retold?

 In these times when the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service is working hard to bring perpetrators of child abuse and paedophiles to book, why are we still not showing in our movies that victims have a place to go for redress and still leave such cases to ghosts and spirits to handle?

The way we are going is still worrisome because the arts is one of the most powerful tools that shape the consciousness of any society. It mobilises people for national development in the direction they want to go.

Our movies usually seem to have no clear-cut story line (plot) or any moral lessons to be learnt and they seem to go on and on and on with no substance. It is as if the actors go on location to decide what to do and once it is recorded, there is no review or editing. Even the entertainment value of these movies is questionable as witchcraft and the powers of the underworld are continuously hyped. When did insults become entertainment in our society?

Even in the days of old when technology was less advanced, we used what we had to entertain and educate ourselves as a people on black and white screens. Why not now? And when we attempt to give English subtitles to these movies we are churning out, it is a great struggle; the translated English is so bad grammatically, and the spellings are funny.

The producers often cry about the lack of funding and resources but what are they doing to attract what they want?  One of the challenges of our artists and entrepreneurs in general has been their inability to see beyond Ghana as a market, but the market in our globalised world is at least West Africa, if not Africa and the world at large.

 If we really want to develop as a people, then we cannot leave such an important institution such as the movie industry in this state of reinforcing superstition, witchcraft and applauding insults.

We are missing the opportunity to use our movies to mobilise us for development, especially in a society where more than half of the population is not literate. A large number of the populace seem gullible as far as these things are concerned.

 I think the government should come in to ensure sanity and provide support for our movie industry.

 Will that constitute censorship?  I still ask: Who will sanitise the movie industry?

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