By Ogova Ondego
Published March 21, 2013
Peter Popolampo, a businessman, is 40 years old, rich and single. Despite his mother’s persistent attempt to find him a woman to marry and settle down, Popolampo sticks to his rule of non-committal casual dates, freedom and controlling his life until the yearning to have a child arises.
He must now find a woman to take his money, have his child and disappear. Consequently, he contracts relationship with Abena Boateng, a crude but clever local girl who is anything but impressed with Popolampo’s affluence.
Thus CONTRACT, an unsuspecting romantic comedy with unusual twists that exposes the flaws in being in control of one’s life, is born.
That is the synopsis of CONTRACT, a film by Ghanian Shirley Frimpong-Manso that illustrates the fact that African filmmakers are bringing just about any aspect of their day-to-day lives on screen. Be it the clash between a modernising and traditional Africa, bureaucracy and corruption in modern nation states, career women and family, short cut to success, relationships, historical injustice, or spirituality, filmmakers in Africa are tackling them all. And they are doing it in all conceivable genres and formats; be it animations, documentaries, fictions, experimentals, shorts, full lengths, comedies, thrillers, musicals, or tragedies, they are all made by Africans as attested to by the film entries to the Africa Film Academy’s 9th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) whose gala is slated for April 20, 2013 in Yenagoa, the capital of the oil-rich Nigerian state of Bayelsa.
Some of the other representative works included Malawi’s THE LAST FISHING BOAT, Uganda’s THE UGANDAN, Kenya’s YELLOW FEVER, South Africa’s UHLANGA THE CALL and ELELWANI, Mozambique’s VIRGEN MAGARIDDA, and Nigeria’s MARRIED BUT SINGLE, HOODRUSH, KOKOMMA, ALAN POZA, FLOWER GIRL and THE MEETING.
MARRIED BUT SINGLE, a film by Nigerian Tunde Olaoye looks at career-driven married women who, because of building their careers, neglect their wifely and motherly responsibilities to the detriment of their own wellbeing.
The film, that starres Funke Akindele, Joseph Benjamin and Kiki Omeli, appears to be asking how working married mothers can balance their demanding careers with their equally demanding family lives. Indeed, can working women have it all: senior positions at work and fulfilling home lives?
Another interesting film is ALAN POZA, a youth romantic comedy which examines the adventures of a young and restless music label executive and his daily grapples with the temptations in that sector of glitz and glamour. This Charles Novia film starres OC Ukeje, Beverly Naya, Okey Uzoeshi, Belinda Effah, Sylvya Oluchy, Kemi Lala Akindoju, and Norbert Young, among others.
HOODRUSH, a musical thriller by Nigerian director Dimeji Ajibola,looks at the well known story of talented artists struggling to have a breakthrough in their various fields but always hampered by poverty. The film tells the story of two brothers closely bonded by their love for music but deeply separated by their means for success. Becoming music stars, they learn, takes more than just vocal talents and good looks. OC Ukeje, Gabriel Afolayan and Bimbo Akintola play the lead roles in this musical.
Did you know that getting an appointment is no guarantee that you will eventually see the government minister if you do not take good care of the gate-keeping receptionist? That is what THE MEETING, a film by Nigerian Mildred Okwo, is all about.
Set in Abuja, the Nigerian political capital, THE MEETING follows the plight of a Lagos-based corporate executive who finds himself at the mercy of political patronage, and bureaucratic red tape while trying to secure a ‘meeting’ with the minister to get a government contract.
THE UGANDAN by Patrick Sekyaya of Uganda, tackles the challenges of inter-racial relationships in a country polarised by a deep mistrust on all sides. It revolves around a Ugandan of Asian descent who is blackmailed by his Ugandan girl friend of African extraction when he returns to the country to reclaim his father’s property that had been confiscated by President Idi Amin Dada in 1972. The film starres Patrick Sekyaya, Arfaan Ahmed, Edlyn Sabrina, Dora Mwima and Halima Namakula.
And perhaps this article would be incomplete if it did not mention the US$64,000-budget THE LAST FISHING BOAT by Malawian Charles Shemu Joyah. Shot in Mangochi along the shores of Lake Malawi, the film appears to be highlighting culture clash between traditional Africa and a fast westernising modern Africa spurred on by travel and tourism.
But not all is well on the African filmmaking front, according to AMAA’s 9th College of Screeners, the fifth of the six-level of panels that look at films submitted to AFA for awards before the International Jury that nominates and awards prizes to the deserving films, cast and crew.
The College notes that the work it examined in 2013 had better ‘technical qualities’ in the form of cinematography, editing and sound production but that the storytelling in the form of screenplays and storylines had deteriorated.
The College, in its report, further notes that “Some filmmakers do not understand the medium in which they are working hence the dialogues are too lengthy and theatrical” and that many of them ‘apply television story-telling techniques to the cinema medium.”
The College also laments that “Some sub-titles do not carry the essence of what is said and are full of grammatical errors.”
Coordinated by dancer and journalist Shaibu Husseini and chaired by Dr Tunji Azeez, the College recommends that filmmakers invest in what it calls “the development of logical, plausible stories and screenplays by engaging professional screen writers just as they do for other professionals in the art of filmmaking.”
Although some may take issue with the College over its definition of an African film, the panel nevertheless states that African filmmakers should tell the African story the African way.
Due to the difficulties encountered in playing the films from DVDs and also in an effort to improve the standards of works across the continent and the Diaspora, the College recommends that Submitted films be well packaged, have a list for cast and crew, submit on high quality DVDs to prevent screening defects, all entries be fully sub-titled and any African Languages, French and Pidgin English, incantations and non English songs be sub-titled accurately, appropriately and in a grammatically correct English.
The caption ‘Preview copy’, the College stresses, “must be in watermark so that it does not hinder the viewing of the film. Additionally, those submitting films to AFA, should cross-check the sound quality, mixing and sound changes across their films before submitting them for consideration.”