In the early 1920’s, British colonial civil servants and well to do Africans brought cinema to Ghana, formerly called the Gold Coast. Apart from private screenings, commercial cinema halls were opened in some urban areas, adding a new and exciting twist to Ghanaian social life.
After World War II broke out in 1939, the British authorities set up the Gold Coast Film Unit and introduced the ubiquitous mobile cinema van. These vans went up and down the country, literally everywhere, showing propaganda films that promoted the British war effort. Ghanaian soldiers were at the same time sent predominantly to the jungles of India and Burma in Asia to defend the British Empire
Ghana’s fascination with Charlie Chaplin
To attract audiences, the mobile cinema vans screened a lot of funny comedies, including Charlie Chaplin films, which proved hugely popular. Ghanaians loved Charlie Chaplin so much they call each other “Charlie” up to this day.
Film Production after independence in 1957
After Independence in 1957, several films were made, leading up to the establishment of Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) in 1964. By the end of the 1960’s, over 150 films had been released. There were also notable collaborations with foreign companies going into the 70’s and 80’s.
Sadly, the Ghana film industry took a nose dive, after the overthrow of the first republic in 1966. Several iconic films however continued to be made by independent Ghanaian film makers and in collaboration with foreign companies.
Ama. A classical of magical realist cinema
In 1996, the government of Ghana sold its majority shares in Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) to a Malaysian production company. One of the last major films shot on celluloid was AMA by Dr Kwesi Owusu and Kwate Nee Owoo. The broke all box office records when it was released in Accra in 1990. After that, a new wave of video producers emerged. The center of film making excellence in West Africa was however gradually shifting to Nigeria.
Insightful films continued to be made by independent producers over the next few decades with new signs of a resurgence.
Great films continued to be made by independent producers and in collaboration with foreign companies. The last decade is beginning to see new signs of resurgence in local production.
The excitement around the production of Enna thrives on Ghana’s rich tradition of professional film making and the love for cinema.