Beyond nostalgia, Africa Film Society is brewing a vibrant community of film enthusiasts at an intriguing period in African cinematic history. Classics In The Park, the monthly open-air film series recently completed its second season featuring a mixed bag of short film as well as a treasure trove of classic African feature films, all screened for free on public park in a serene corner of Osu, one of Accra’s cultural meccas, from Jan 27, 2018 to April 28, 2018.
The imitate affair which began in November 2016, as a way of promoting a reexamination of certain staples of African cinematic history has so far has done well at achieving its primary aim. This season featured an expanded catalogue with various short films from across the continent and the diaspora to serve as precursors to the classics. As Super 16, our series providing space for African short film has taught us, there isn’t much space available for short film to be licensed or screened outside of the very traditional festival circuit. As such it was refreshed to see the program had decide to create space for the circulation of such works.
Some of our favorite short films screened include: The Purple House by Selim Gribaa (2014), a brilliant use of cinematography to unmask human emotions, by satirizing the effects of political revolution on a society through dark comedy. Our contributor, Nnenna Onouha also screened her first film, Obreiro, an experimental video portrait of a Ghanaian barber living in Portugal. Also Mother Tongue by Victoria Adukwei Bulley, whom we interviewed her also made another appearance in Accra following its debut at the CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival in 2017.
The other short films screened from the call for short films, some of which we missed, include:
- Farewell Meu Amor by Ekwa Msangi (Tanzania/USA)
- Africa Must Unite by Maishe Mosala (South Africa)
- Monsoons Over The Moon by Daniel Muchina, (Kenya)
- Nomfundo by Sihle Hlophe, (South Africa),
- Alma by Christa Eka Assam, (Cameroon),
- Night Shift by Marshall Tyler, (U.S.A)
- Mdree Bahree, Land of the Sea, by Miriam Berhane Haile, (Eritrea),
- Gerreta by Mantegaftot Sileshi, (Ethiopia),
- New neighbors by E.G. Bailey, (Liberia / USA)
Additionally, for early birds, African film Society screened various rare documentary as they set-up for the night, a great incentive to encourage punctuality. They included: Baby Ghana, Dir – Jean Rouch (1959) and documentaries on Hugh Masekela and Marielle Franco.
Aside the short films, the feature length selection was particularly interesting as it featured certain lost gens as well as instant classics. The included:
- Love Brewed in an African Pot (1980). Dir – Kwaw Ansah (Ghana)
- Come Back Africa (1960). Dir – Lionel Rogosin (South Africa)
- Black Orpheus (1959). Dir – Marcel Camus (Brazil)
- Mr Mensah Builds A House (1955). Dir – Sean Graham ( Ghana )
With the next season of Classics in the Park slated for January 2019, film enthusiasts in Accra do face quite a long wait till another congregation. Ideally, DANDANO would like to see the event expand beyond its traditional screening based structures and attempt to move towards more capacity building sessions for Accra-based filmmaker in particular. As the cinema industry grows in Ghana, there does remain the need to cultivate a culture of non-traditional learning and unlearning in public spaces among both seasoned and upcoming filmmakers. This should help us in our quest to keep creating our own unique visual landscapes/languages that are truly representative of our unique identities.
Additionally, DANDANO would strongly suggest that Africa Film Society considers introducing the audience to the historical and social context of each of the films they screen, especially with the older feature films. As these films are branded as and recognized as classics, it would be nice to begin to understand what exactly makes them iconic relics in our collective cultural history. For example, it is important to recognize what it meant for Marcel Camus to produce such a black film in 1959, on a grand scale in a country where people of color suffer from a lot of colorism in Black Orpheus or if Mr Mensah Builds A House may or may not have been used to promote British colonial agenda.
Writing by Hakeem Adam
Photo Credit: Boatfilms/African Film Society.