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1 Mapping the Modern The Gold Coast Film Unit and the Ghana Film Industry Corporation In 1995, to mark the centenary of cinema, the Ghanaian Ministry of Information sponsored a one-week film festival and symposium organized around the theme of North-South cross-cultural influences in cinema. The celebration featured screenings of films made in Ghana by the national film company and the internationally recognized independent filmmakers Kwah Ansah and King Ampaw. Among the titles included in the festival program was The Boy Kumasenu (1952), a British colonial film created by the Gold Coast Film Unit (GCFU). The film, organized around the motif of the journey, replays the colonial opposition between tradition and modernity. Kumasenu, the protagonist , migrates from the traditional village to the city, where the film’s voice-over narration explains, “Everything is new,” and his journey to modernity allegorizes Ghana’s evolution from primitive tradition to modern nationhood. In a series of promotional articles published in the government-owned daily newspaper, the Mirror, Nanabanyin Dadson described The Boy Kumasenu as “the first full-length feature film to be made in Ghana” (Dadson 1995c). Sean Graham, the founding director of the GCFU and the director of The Boy Kumasenu, was an invited speaker at the festival, and coverage of his visit was given prominence in Dadson’s coverage. An article by Dan Adjokatcher, this one announcing Graham’s visit, called Graham the “father of Ghanaian cinema” (Adjokatcher 1995).1 Aside from references to the film in books by Rouch (2003) and Diawara (1992) and brief commentary by Tom Rice (2010) intended to supplement its viewing in the online archive Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire, The Boy Kumasenu has attracted little scholarly attention.2 Yet, the rather laudatory characterization of The Gold Coast Film Unit and the Ghana Film Industry Corporation / 25 this unabashedly colonial film in Ghanaian public discourse speaks, I think, to its significance as a nexus of several important historical , ideological, and aesthetic crosscurrents. Not surprisingly, The Boy Kumasenu shares affinities with colonial educational films and British imperial cinema, but it also has much in common with the documentaries of John Grierson and with Hollywood cinema of the 1930s and 1940s. Although obviously imperial in its narrative and mode of address, the aesthetics of the film mark a radical departure from the “primitive style” of many colonial film productions, a style developed by the Colonial Film Unit for the “illiterate” African who was thought to lack the capacity to read cinematic images. Graham moves far away from the conventions of narrative and spectatorial address established in colonial educational cinema, focalizing long segments of the film through the point of view of Kumasenu, an African subject , whose desires and anxieties are represented as driving much of the film’s action. Although written and directed by Graham, The Boy Kumasenu was shot, edited, and acted by Africans. It was one of the last productions of the Gold Coast Film Unit, and many of the feature films made by the Ghana Film Industry Corporation betray its influence; its creation and narrative stand between the final period of British colonial rule and the beginning of Ghana’s independence. Likewise, the Ghana Film Industry Corporation’s 1992 production A Debut for Dede, the second film closely examined in this chapter , bears the imprints of an important liminal moment in Ghana’s film history. A Debut for Dede, like The Boy Kumasenu, narrates the protagonist’s migration from her village to the capital city of Accra. The journey signifies Dede’s turn from the rituals and customs practiced in her village toward a modern female subjectivity in the city. The film, too, appeared during a crucial transitional period, one shaped by technological change, when GFIC moved away from film to video production, and by structural and ideological transformation as state-funded filmmaking gave way to independent, commercial video production. The feature was the last production shot on film by the Ghana Film Industry Corporation. Four years after its release, as part of the IMF program to liberalize the economy, GFIC was privatized; 70 percent of the company shares were sold to TV 3 Malaysia , while the Ghanaian government retained a mere 30 percent of the corporation. In subsequent years, the restructured and renamed film company, now called the Ghana-Malaysia Film Company Limited (GAMA Film), became little more than a video production unit, 26 / Mapping the Modern producing feature-length movies for TV3 Ghana, the first independent television...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780896804845
Related ISBN
9780896802865
MARC Record
OCLC
824733582
Pages
284
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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