Sometimes, you cannot help the feeling, if you are a Nigerian or a Ghanaian, that there is some unspoken but serious rivalry between the two nations. In previous decades, Nigeria had the upper hand in issues that concern the West African region: this makes sense considering that the country has the largest population in the region and in the continent as a whole. Also, when you consider Nigeria’s comparatively larger economy and her oil wealth, you may begin to understand some of the reasons behind the superiority complex that Nigerians manifest when speaking to or about other West Africans.
In recent times however, Ghana has improved her image and standing on all fronts; indeed so clear and focused has Ghana’s ascent up the West African totem pole been that citizens of both countries and interested third parties have often found themselves comparing the two nations. And if the truth be told, despite having six and a half times the population of Ghana, and nine times the size of Ghana’s GDP, Nigeria cannot by any means boast of being so much better. Not even twice better by any serious metric of comparison. This is not to disparage the citizens of any country—it is just an attempt to show that at the moment, neither of these two countries is a clear winner or a clear favorite by an extended analytical comparison of socio-economic indices. I am sure that some partisans may disagree with me at this point, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees.
Be that as it may, one area of comparison between these two regional powerhouses is emerging, nay has already emerged—the indigenous or national movie industry. One only need say a few things about the movie industry of both countries to generate a supercharged furor. Sometimes, a discussion on this subject matter is marked by unadulterated Ad-hominems, but I guess that’s sometimes the mode of argument when the topic becomes sufficiently infused with primitive passions or provincial loyalties.
Let’s cut to the chase here: What do you think of the Nigerian movie industry or Nollywood, as it is popularly called? What are your thoughts on Ghollywood—presumably, Ghana’s movie industry? Would you say that one was better than the other—if yes, what are your reasons? What about their local movie super stars?
Okay, I get it—you absolutely love these African movies. Yes, it is hard to deny but in recent years, the quality of African movies in general has been improving—albeit, I’ll contend that it is not improving fast enough. It is difficult to look at movies from 15 to 20 years ago and not notice how much has improved. I think kudos is in order for the hard-working men and women who have persistently striven to elevate and refine their craft. Who knows how long it might be from now when some African movies might begin to command global interest and even be forced onto the American movie scene? Alas, I digress.
Coming back to African movies, I am left scratching my head at some of the movies that are making the rounds in Ghana these days. I am talking about movies like Hot Fork, Heart of Men, 4play, Kiss Me If You Can, Shakira, Sex Game, etc. Many Africans who have seen these movie trailers and/or bothered to see the entire movie have marveled at how unoriginal, unconvincing, and vapid the movie plots have been DESPITE the exaggerated use of sexually explicit scenes. Indeed, some of these movies, seem to be little more than poorly-produced soft porn—teasing the audience with all manner of sexually provocative imagery.
What exactly is going on in the Ghana movie industry? I realize that in this present day and age, sex sells, but surely, this is not the best that Ghana’s movie producers can offer is it? Questions will arise because for good or ill, it seems that Ghana has uniquely captured the erotic, smarmy, carnal, and prurient corner of the African movie market. And it seems that this is going to be here for a while because it is hugely profitable. Yes, let’s not kid ourselves: there is a huge demand for these movies by active and passionate lovers of African movies.
Let no one be tempted to wax too puritanical about general decency in African societies. The truth is that even if people might criticize these movies in respectable or religious settings, a great number of them still watch it in private or relaxed circles, I suspect, if for nothing else, to see what jaw-dropping sexual stunts African movie stars now have the confidence to show on the silver screen.
Now, this would not have been so awful for many if the plots of these movies weren’t somewhat stale; or the characters’ lines weren’t so predictable; or their acting lacking certain finesse; or the sex scenes weren’t so tastelessly shot or depicted. Is it really the case that these tasteless nude scenes enhance the story? Is it really necessary to show in near graphic detail some of these sex scenes—surely, some can be left to the imagination yes? If these movies are not to be misconstrued as Grade B Pornography, is it such a huge deal to ask for acting that advances a solid narrative or plot instead of the random and pointless caressing, groping, kissing, stiff and clumsy foreplay and awkward sexual intercourse that one sometimes gets?
Notice that in these objections, I have intentionally avoided the hot rod of morality which seems to be the default weapon that Africans employ in denouncing some of these movies. Personally, I could care less what sorts of movies become the norm on the African movie scene. For one, I am thoroughly fed up of the ritual-money theme prevalent in Nigerian movies. Secondly, I am far more interested in African music than I am in African movies. Lastly, I think I’ll be the last person to intentionally support a stifling of creativity and imagination in the African movie industry. If that creativity and imagination takes expression in movies that are generally deemed by Africans to be overly sexually explicit, then hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. My objection is based solely on the quality of content of these semi-trashy pieces of adolescent lasciviousness.
I am surprised that so far though, Nollywood has not yet caught the bug. But I am not such a doe-eyed optimist. I am willing to bet that as these “smutty” films continue to rake in huge profits for Ghana’s movie producers, it will not be long before Nollywood joins the game. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby! Perhaps, at that time, many critics of the Ghanaian movie industry would drop the annoying pretensions to a moral higher ground.
Give us better movies or market these movies for what they truly are: porn with obnoxiously loud histrionics!