Season 3, Ep.19:
“It is the greatest travesty Ghanaians have allowed their film industry to die” – JOT Agyeman
AFRICA IN FOCUS SHOW
ACCRA, Ghana – Communications Consultant at Global Media Alliance Broadcasting Company, JOT Agyeman, believes “it is a travesty that we are where we are today, because Nkrumah was the very person who set up in those times the Gold Coast Film Unit, and built a very remarkable film studio, which is, today, TV3.” He adds that, “all of the area around where TV3 is today belonged to the Ghana film industry, including the adjacent buildings, which houses the Information Services Department...”
Speaking to E.K.Bensah Jr on the “Africa in Focus Show”, which reprised the topic of Pan-African Media & Film, the seasoned actor and script-writer explained how it “was Nkrumah's dream: to set up an African Film Industry with a base here in Ghana, so he put the facilities in place. However, on the overthrow of Nkrumah, subsequent governments”, he continues, “did not find it necessary to continue...and that led to the sale of the Ghana Film Industry recently to the Media General that now owns the building, which for me is the greatest travesty that as a nation we have allowed to happen. The fact that we have allowed our film industry to die.”
Agyeman explained, “If you take the setting up of NAFTI, School of Performing Arts, the Institute of African Studies, these were all there to enhance the African Film Industry, but...governments have not been proactive, especially Ghanaian governments after the overthrow of Nkrumah...in the development of film.” He laments how anyone who has done film has done it on their own, by finding some money somewhere.
Asked whether he was encouraged by what the AU is doing to establish a continental institution on Audiovisuals & Film, and an African Film Fund, he said it was already part of Nkrumah's dream to set it up, so he wonders why it has taken so long.
On his part, former Programmes Manager at Homebase TV, Elijah Iposu, believes that the proposed institution “is going to be yet-another talk shop that may achieve administrative and legal – probably – integration, but the creative integration will never be achieved, because the real people are not involved in the planning.” He wonders “how are we going to work out with fifty-four countries, what are the steps? Who are the people?”
Questioned by the Bensah whether the private sector on the continent can work together outside the framework of the AU, Iposu believes even in Nollywood, the structures are there, but are not well-aligned. He talked of how Nollywood has actually begun to make epic movies, including one on the Nigerian civil war in 1976. He believes “we should look at the intra-regional integration” of films, and then when we are done “look at the similar challenges and possible solutions to them. After which we go a step further by saying Kenya, what are you doing, how can we learn in West Africa from you.”
Pressed to leave their take-home messages on a concrete vision for the creative economy, JOT first said “we need to put behind selfish desires as people in the creative industry. Everyone wants to do something on their own. The fact is that you cannot do everything on your own. Number two, we don't have a film industry...; we have pockets of people doing their own thing. We need to go back to the place where there was a film industry..and people from Nollywood came into Ghana to study. That's why NAFTI...and School of Performing Arts [were] established.”
He continues “what we need to do as a people is to set up a proper Creative Arts Commission...where we take on board the AU's desire to set up an Institute; we take on board other countries what they are doing, and find our place as a people. It could be”, he adds, “that Ghana can produce *only* script-writers, but if you produce the best script-writers within the continent, everybody knows where to go to! You cannot do everything; that is the point I am making.”
He concludes “it took one person...Lupita Nyongu to come out of Kenya...that is not to say we didn't have people...: we have Idris Elba...and so many others. It just took one person and one movie. She won an Oscar for just one movie – her first movie “Twelve Years a Slave” – and immediately, Africa is on the map again. That’s all it takes: one good script; one good producer; one good actor, and then we'll be on the way to the top.”
For Iposu, he believes Ghana needs to identify “actual film-makers” as there are too many people parading as such. Secondly, “we need pioneers in the industry to come together...from Ghana; Cote d'Ivoire; Burkina Faso; Senegal; Nigeria ...and look for a way to mass up money and set up a Film Fund” that can be run, and even be floated on the stock exchange, “so you have people's interests.”
The “Africa in Focus” Show is hosted by Emmanuel.K.Bensah Jr from 14h05 to 15h00 every Wednesday. You can download all podcasts from www.africainfocusradioshow.org . Follow the conversation on twitter on @africainfocus14 , using #africainfocus