Kwaw Ansah Movies
Although Kwaw Ansah has only made two feature films, he has achieved a reputation as an independent filmmaker who engages in important issues and whose films reflect a concern with the future of cinema in Africa. His interest in film can be traced back to his father’s profession as a photographer. After becoming a draftsman and working in textiles, Ansah went to England where he enrolled in the Polytechnic of Central London and studied theater design. He took other courses at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and received a film production grant at RKO Studios in California.
One of his plays, The Adoption, was staged off Broadway. His second play, A Mother’s Tears, was produced after he went home. Upon his return to Ghana he became actively involved in the film industry as a production assistant for the Ghana Film Industry Corporation. He then produced short films for advertising companies. Finally he formed a production company with some friends in order to attempt the difficult task of making independent films. He has always struggled with the financing of films and has almost given up filmmaking at times because of the obstacles he faced in getting the money to make a film. Both of his features deal with problems of identity in a postcolonial context.
Love Brewed in the African Pot (1980) took ten years to produce because of financial difficulties. This love story of people from widely different backgrounds allows Ansah to develop themes relating to class and cultural differences and the modernization and loss of tradition that often accompanies wealth and upper-class status in postcolonial Africa.
Aba Appiah, an educated seamstress, wants to marry Joe Quansah, an almost illiterate mechanic. He is the son of a fisherman, and her father, Kofi,a retired civil servant, wants her to marry a professional from the uppermiddle class, like the lawyer he has selected. She remains insistent on valuing love over money and status. In presenting the problems the couple faces, Ansah introduces such cultural conflicts as the difference between the traditional African wedding Aba wants and the Western one her father dreams of.
Kofi may believe he is a modern man, but he wavers when Aba becomes ill. He tries a range of religions from Christianity to traditional healing in his search for a cure. He also experiences a dream that reaffirms the importance of the fisherman’s approach that asserts the importance of the past. But Aba also experiences a dream. She overvalues the fisherman tradition at the expense of her father’s beliefs. Ansah shows the complexity of the interaction of past and present in Africa. In this film there are no easy solutions; each side has its positive and negative elements.
Heritage… Africa (1987), Ansah’s second film, deals with actual historical events to examine the effects of colonialism. This narrative employs a complex structure of dream sequences and flashbacks to trace the shifting cultural stances taken by its central character. Kwesi Atta Bosomefi marks his entry into the colonial system by Westernizing his name to Quincy Arthur Bosomfield. Throughout his education he trades elements of his African identity for the British system that he hopes to adopt. When his mother comes to visit him, he hides her from his guests by seating her outside his house like a servant. She entrusts a precious family heirloom to him, and he gives it to the governor who admires its construction and sends it to England.
These acts reverberate with symbolic meaning expressing the abandoning of ‘‘mother’’ Africa by many who were attracted by the false promises of the colonizers. Ansah exposes the colonial impact on every aspect of native life. In addition to the political and educational systems that erase social structures and knowledge of the past, religion is shown to be a hypocritical missionary intervention that was only concerned with conversion and the destruction of traditional beliefs and not with the real welfare of Africans. In another sequence that is rich in symbolic overtones, Bosomfield catches his son watching a forbidden native dance. He take him to a minister who beats the boy so that he eventually dies from his wounds. The same minister buries the boy.
As the narrative develops, Bosomfield begins to sense the conflicts in his position. When it is too late he finally attempts to return to his roots. While his journey takes place under colonialism, Ansah suggests many Bosomfields still exist in modern Africa, and the poisoning of the society that began in that era continues into the present. Ansah’s two films demonstrate his ongoing concern with effects of the past on the present and the need for an appreciation of a heritage that is in danger of being lost.
Under colonialism, African history was attacked to promote foreign interests and to demonstrate the inferiority of indigenous practices. But in modern times, Africans themselves ignore their heritage as they seek to become exactly like the very colonialists that have been ejected from Africa. In his films, Ansah demonstrates how these themes operate in his country and how they mirror similar situations around the continent.
Love Brewed In The African Pot (1980) won the Peacock Award Eighth International Film Festival of India, Omarou Ganda Prize FESPACO 81
Heritage…Africa (1987) won the Grand Prize FESPACO 89, FESPACO Institute of Black People’s Award.
Source:Russell, Sharon A.. Guide to African Cinema.