After a long hiatus, I’m back with a guest commuter today. Very briefly, he’s got to be one of the best wordsmiths I know on Twitter! Dela Kobla Nyamuame is a poet and a keen observer of Ghanaian life. One thing, don’t gbaa around him, or he’ll find the wittiest way to expose you. Please comment, share, read his blog and follow him @Amegaxi.
It had been your typical trotro trip on the Spintex Road, slowly cooked in a sardine tin on wheels. China phones had been doing their thing, ringing too long and too loud. Mixed with the cries of babies sweltering in the heat, it was all very unbearable. It felt good to have the blood find its way to my legs once again. Turning my neck to massage the cramps that were forming there, my weak legs almost gave way when I saw a man walking in on the pavement, DVDs in hand and a movie poster tacked onto his shirt: “Azonto Ghost”. Seriously?! Is there no end to the wonders that a trip to work in Accra can churn up?
On the subject of Ghanaian movies there are two distinct categories; those in English and those in a local language (usually Twi). Personally I divide the English movies into “Shirley Frimpong Manso – Leila Djansi” movies and the rest. I also divide the Twi movies into “movies with Agya Koo” and “movies without Agya Koo”.
Gone are the days when Ghanaian movies were all about witches, ghosts and all sorts of metaphysical beings. I remember movies from the 90s like, Sabina, Sika Sunsum, Ghosts Tears, Mari Jata, Agege Spirit, Shoe Shine Boy, Bukom Lion, Crossfire etc.
In their own way, these films had an impact on me. I remember watching Crossfire back in 1992. Somewhere in the movie a human head mysteriously appears in the back seat of a car and starts laughing. The driver loses control of the car, crashes and dies. Being too much for me to handle at that age, I suddenly didn’t want to ride in the back seat of my dad’s car, for fear of a human head appearing there.
Speaking of misconceptions, another movie titled “Harvest at 17” comes to mind, a movie about teenage pregnancy. Incredibly, the movie-makers couldn’t be bothered to explain that one needed to have sex before pregnancy occurred. One area guy, a know-it-all older kid, confidently explained that just by lying next to a girl you could get her pregnant. This theory accounted for my fear of girls all the way to Class 6.
Any trip to Kumasi came with a free viewing of a local film to pass the time. Yet, somewhere around 2008 or so, there was a huge paradigm shift in the Ghanaian movie industry. Twi movies suddenly gained huge popularity. These movies were usually a strange blend of comedy and superstition. This new genre of movies was led by Ghana’s own Will Smith, popularly known as Agya Koo.
The interesting thing about the Twi movies is their often outlandish titles. Just look out of any vehicle on any street in any city in Ghana and you will find posters of them defacing buildings and anything that stands still for more than 20 minutes.
There is the Agya Koo series: “Agya Koo in London, Agya Koo Gbengbentus, Agya Koo Salamatu, Agya Koo this, Agya Koo that. Then there are the Hollywood/America inspired movies: Ben 10 vrs Avatar, Prison Break and my personal favourite, 2016.
I was brave enough to watch 2016 after watching its American version 2012. Spoiler alert for those who had plans to watch it. The CGI was so shockingly poor it was comical. The movie is a fusion of Terminator, Alien vrs Predator, Hackers and some other lesser known American releases. A scientist manages to hack into the spaceship of Twi-speaking aliens with nothing more advanced than a Pentium 2 and what looks like visualization from Windows Media Player. The scientist builds a Cyborg which runs on a real human heart gained from his son, who sacrifices himself to save mankind. This one Cyborg is able to defeat all the aliens and saves the human race. All this of course happens in the year 2016.
After watching this movie I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry.
There’s also another category of Twi movies based on current events. For example, ex-President Rawlings makes a joke about current president Atta Mills. Something about Atta being a mortuary man and a week later the movie, “Atta Mortuary Man” is out. Suddenly you can’t help but wonder how long it takes to write, edit and act a movie in Ghana.
And as should be expected, the moment they’re released, you’ll find Kwame Djokoto screaming “DEEVEEDEE!” and “Part Waaan and Toooo!” on TV and radio, all in a bid to promote the movie.
I walked away towards the office, my mind occupied with worries about what on earth an Azonto Ghost does. Watching Ghanaian movies is not for the faint-hearted. It requires a very strong jaw and a really really open mind.