The Ghanaian film writer, director and producer, Emmanuel Okyere Mensah who produced and directed Red Rose movie, writes on issues in the movie industry.
The Ghana film industry has seen a lot of transformation and developments since it’s establishment way back in the 1948 when it was known as the Gold Coast film unit.
The first change was when Ghama Films was sold out in the mid 90s. Cinemas were converted into chapels and film producers began to struggle. Those who could leave the country at that time left and many others found themselves in different sectors of the economy, there by collapsing the movie industry. The Nigerians took advantage of this situation and flooded the Ghanaian market with their movies. Those were the days of the Nigerian occult type of movies like ‘Witches of Africa’, ‘Karishika’,’Wasted Years’, etc. Just as Ghanaians have fallen for Foreign Telenovellas today, they fell for the Nigerian movies then. Some of these movies were shown in our churches as a more concrete means of evangelism.
But towards the beginning of the 2000s, the Ghana movie industry saw another bounce back. This time, the industry was firmly rooted in Kumasi when Mr Samuel Nyamekye of Miracle films broke the silence in film making with movies like ‘That Day’ which featured the late Bob Santo. The Twi movie was heavily patronized and other producers like Mustapha Adams of AA Productions and John Issah of Timatape followed with very intriguing movies all in the local Twi language. This made Kumasi the film hub in Ghana.
It opened the doors of film making to both young and some few old producers and marketers. Because Kumasi was always buzzing with film production, packaging and marketing, the name KUMAWOOD was carved out to describe the new era of film making in Ghana. There were film production guilds at every corner of the city since a lot of Ghanaians were so eager to be trained as actors in the industry. A lot of stage actors from Concert party and Akan drama found themselves as hot cakes in the Kumawood industry and notable among them were, Rose Mensah known as Akua Ataa Kyeiwaa and Kofi Adu aka Agya Koo.
(click on link to watch Red Rose Movie
Most producers and film marketers lived luxurious lifestyles and became very popular and powerful in the society. A lot of young Ghanaians wanted to live their lives like them and so they had massive followers. That was when most of the big names in Kumawood started taking advantage of their followers.
Some of these young chaps who followed producers wrote very nice stories and screen plays for them but never received any pesewa for their intellectual property. Most often, they would not be credited as the writers of those movies all because they are not popular. There are many new and young actors who followed producers and directors for roles in movies but some of these producers and directors ended up sleeping with these desperate wannabe stars and also took moneys from them. This is the situation called the KUMAWOOD MAFIA
Performers were not the only victims of this Kumawood mafia. There were producers who also suffered from the hands of marketers at the then Kejetia film marketing hub. There were reports of some producers who gave their movies to some marketers to sell on their behalves but they never got their moneys on time. What happened was that most of these movie marketers also became producers after seeing the money producers were reaping. So after selling the producers’ movies, they will use the amount to be given to the producer to make their own movies and sell to claim their profits before they give back the producer’s money. Each time a producer threatened to take the matter up to the law court, some of the marketers who formed a strong marketers association ganged up against the producer. Such producers were blacklisted by the marketers, there by pushing them out of the industry. The marketers became very powerful and controlled affairs in the movie industry. They determined the kind of actors one could use in movies and chose which actors or producers to push out. They used this same authority to promote actors, directors and producers who paid homage to them.
Most of these industrial players at that time felt that there was no need for higher education. This was because most of these producers and marketers were already reaping millions of Ghana cedis with little or no educational background. There was money to spend and the next thing that ruled in Kumawood was the thirst for women and power. Most producers and directors travelled around to make movies with ladies who were tagged as ‘hand bags’. Also, the quest to get power and control over the industry saw some producers, marketers, directors and some actors using juju and black magic to charm the public to give them mass following.
The industry became too dark, filthy and dangerous so some actors, directors, producers and marketers who felt they could not compete left quietly. Others also survived genuinely by dint of hard work and prayers.
Today there is civilization and things have changed in the face of technology. The availability of cheaper internet service has opened the movie industry into the global market and that is where Kumawood started falling. Modern trends of film making does not dwell on mafia tactics nor juju powers. Just as it happened in the mid-90s, some producers, directors and actors have left the country because the Kumawood they built has collapsed.
But the good news is that there is a new generation of film makers who are emerging from various corners of Ghana who are making great movies. What they need to do to revive the dying Kumawood is to learn the new ways of film making, marketing and exhibition. It will also be of great need for them to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. The movie industry is not beyond revival