Throughout the history of cinema, very few films have had the pleasure or burden of being truly iconic, bookmarking a very distinct period in whichever culture that inspired them. African cinema will always have Ousmane Sembène’s La Noire de…/Black Girl and Kwaw Ansah’s Heritage Africa or more recently Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu. ABSTRAKTE Films debut feature length film, Lucky, positions itself at the foot of these classics, inspired by that rich tradition, in an attempt to be truly iconic.
The film, released in September 2018, follows two young men as they attempt to survive the relentless tirade of trauma that can be Accra, Ghana’s capital and in the process, provide a polarized lens to examine millennial lifestyle and culture through honest and direct depiction of varied lived experiences. Lucky, the principal character of the shapeshifting tragi-comedy is in a race with himself, reality and fortune by restlessly striving for better, blind to the cost of his better. He attempts to achieve this with the help of Wadaada, the film’s low key star performer, who embodies the “Accra We Dey” spirit of hustling, as he snakes his way around the hardship of the city, always emerging with a new skin and a wry smile. Their bromance threads the film together to present a collage of vignettes that highlight various social, political and economic realities that young Ghanaians face.
This collage is more of a puzzle, forged as a mirage with various seemingly inconsequential moments melting into a golden vista fragmented by the lives of each of the characters that grace the screen of the film. Directed by Fofo Gavua, Lucky employs various elements of filmic language such as relatable comedic dialogue, mellow lightning, measured foreshadowing, intimate yet dynamic framing and a signature sonic architecture to masterful effect that lend the project a very light and relatable tone, especially amongst denizens of Accra who can easily find a character like MasterCard or Wadaada or Nutifafa in their lives. Regardless of the serious business that is surviving Accra, the film chooses to amplify the comedic moments that come with this survival; a lot of which is activated through the refreshingly natural pidgin English dialogues as well as the reflective monologues by the lead character.
Despite the characters living in their distinct lights, Lucky maximizes the funny bits of their idiosyncrasies, making their deep seated troubles and anxieties palatable and relatable. Indeed, character development steers the plot as the introduction and exiting of each personality in the film revealed a new layer of truth about surviving Accra. Characters such as Lucky and Nutifafa bring you the angst-filled realities behind the crystal ball that is social media, Wadaada gives you the truth, the bravado, the spirit and the courage of creating your own joy, Pamela shows a free-spirit circling in flight. MasterCard and Ricky, in their fleeting yet timeless moments, reflect polar opposites; the calm and the rage embodied in survival. Each vignette is true and honest, and as they form a collage, the viewer begins to thread their decisions together, in an attempt to grasp their motives. The brilliant acting/castings is also complemented by cameo appearances from various legendary Ghanaians actors, which weaponizes the nostalgia of Ghanaian film to engineer new moments of bliss among millennial Ghanaians who grew up watching these legends.
However, character development seem to be the ingredient that anchors the wings of the film as each personality is presented as a slide in a chapter of the life of the main character. They are presented in transient vignettes that rob them of their depth. Indeed, in some parts, it does feel like Lucky is episode one in a mini-series documenting these dynamic live experiences. The 80-minute runtime seems too short a period to fully flesh out all the characters. The film also does not make up for this with its main plot structure which at some points feels weighted and reliant on certain cliche film tropes and stereotypes. Despite following Lucky through his day, the audience is not given a chance to connect directly with the character and his intimate thoughts, desires and motivation for his questionable actions are camouflaged by the fast-paced narrative sequencing. You don’t really get to understand Lucky, you just get to follow him on a remarkably entertaining ride, with humorous and troubling moments around every bend.
Beyond this, Fofo Gavua and the team at Abstrakte films have produced a master stroke of independent African filmmaking. The film renders the experience of living in and surviving Accra into a transient episode where the audience is slowly transported from their lives into a world that is eerily familiar, lucid and tangible. It brings a refreshing honest fidelity to the way in which the lives of young man and woman in African cities like Accra are portrayed on screen. The films successful online marketing campaign, fueled mostly by the love and yearning for authentic and refreshing storytelling, cannot be maligned.
Already, Lucky feels like a cult classic. For an independent film, it has managed to capture the attention of people outside the universe of experience that birthed it. It also perfectly captures what it is like to be a young Ghanaian man or woman in 2018, permanently preserving and documenting the social, economic, political and cultural elements that created this moment in time. For now, we can only speculate as to what its role will be in African cinematic history, but the film is already off to a great start.
Written by Hakeem Adam
Images: Abstrakte Films