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3 Professional Movies and Their Global Aspirations The Second Wave of Video Production in Ghana Across Africa, the 1990s brought unprecedented transformation into local media ecologies (Teer-Tomaselli, de Beer, and Wasserman 2007). In Ghana these changes were ushered in with the country’s first democratic elections in 1992. Now president, Rawlings continued to direct the country toward economic liberalization. Throughout the 1990s, the deregulation of the state-controlled media environment, a central component of liberalization, opened the country to a multiplicity of global media flows and made available an extraordinary array of local, national, and transnational sources of news, information , and entertainment. Deregulation also made possible the further proliferation of private FM radio stations (Gifford 2004) and independent newspapers (Hasty 2005), as well as enabling the establishment of two free-to-air, private television stations, TV3 and Metro TV. New media transmission and distribution technologies, including direct broadcast satellite, cable television, and VCRs, further diversified the media landscape in Ghana and significantly broadened access to it (Dal Yong Jin 2007; Teer-Tomaselli, de Beer, and Wasserman 2007). Multichoice Africa, a subsidiary of MNet, South Africa’s first private television station, began providing satellite transmission to Ghana in 1993, while the number of Ghanaians owning television sets multiplied.1 As is the case with Nigeria (Ugor 2009), Ghana also experienced an influx of inexpensive and portable media technologies from China, Japan, and Singapore, which expanded the range and reach of global media content in the country and increased the speed at which it became available. And at a time when theater patronage 92 / Professional Movies and Their Global Aspirations throughout the country decreased, these new technologies, including video CDs (VCDs), DVDs, and compatible players in the late 1990s, contributed to the ongoing privatization of movies and other media. These dramatic changes in the economic and structural organization of film and media institutions and the opening of the media landscape to new global media flows corresponded to the development of a more organized and regulated commercial video industry and the introduction of more professionalized video productions in Ghana between 1992 until around 2000. In this period, the divestiture of the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) diminished opportunities for employment with state institutions, and many trained film and videomakers entered commercial video production, bringing into the nascent industry movies that represented deliberate attempts to professionalize a cultural field overcrowded with what were deemed substandard products. Among the most popular examples of the professional movies were the GAMA Films release Jennifer (1998) and Veronica Quarshie’s Stab in the Dark series (1999–2003). Citing Hollywood as their model, these producers and directors claimed to be trying to upgrade and improve the poor quality of movies prevalent in the field, offering Ghanaian audiences video productions that were more “professional” than the videos produced during the industry ’s earliest years. Part of the professionalism of these new videomakers was their absolute refusal to take on topics in any way affiliated with witchcraft, the occult, or blood money. Videomakers who trained at NAFTI or GFIC or who were graduates of the School of Performing Arts at Legon, in particular, aspired to a more global or cosmopolitan style. They wanted to make movies that did not represent Ghana negatively to a global audience and more than that, movies that were not tethered to the local context, like a witchcraft video or a movie produced in the Akan language would be. They aimed to achieve what they described as a global product that could be compared to a Hollywood film. The movies signal their cosmopolitan, professional aspirations in three registers. First, professional videos adopt themes and modes of narration that distance their story-worlds from the poverty and economic decline that were central to the first video movies.2 Unlike the earliest productions, professional movies made during the second wave of video production in Ghana close off the social. Centered on the domestic realm and animated by characters’ personal, moral choices, they turn inward in their representation of subjectivity and The Second Wave of Video Production in Ghana / 93 space. Second, professional movies also deploy the trope of consumerism to gesture toward global fantasy vistas that transcend the local. Made visible in patches, the cityscape appears as a site of global consumerism , and characters in these movies express their cosmopolitanism by purchasing luxury goods from elsewhere. Finally, several movies perform a professional style by engaging women’s issue and gender discourses; Jennifer and the Stab in the Dark...


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