Thursday, March 26, 2015

Love Brewed in the African Pot

1980, Ghana, directed by Kwaw Ansah

Kwaw Ansah was the victim of some awful timing, starting his cinema career just as Ghana's cinemas went into terminal decline in the early 1980s: the arrival of the VCR combined with an extended curfew to close many of the venues that were already struggling after a decade of economic upheaval. There is almost no hint of that offscreen turmoil, though: the film is set at a vaguely-defined point shortly after independence and focuses on the confrontation of tradition and modernity (intermingled with issues of social class). Like Sembène, Ansah is blunt about the ways in which many leading figures in post-independence Africa echoed their colonial predecessors, even striving to emulate them (thus the tragi-comic figure of the father with his pith helmet and his insistence on certain forms of dress and address). For the most part, Ansah displays a fine observational eye for the tensions between different views of the world, zeroing in on the distaste of the educated elite for traditional observances (a theme that was common in Ghanaian newspapers of the 1950s), though the film shifts gears quite radically in the final twenty minutes, and the move to a more consciously Shakespearean/metaphorical register is jarring.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States