A little while now, Netflix has stayed connected to Africa by throwing in reliable cash for the development of African original films to stream on the platform. Nigerian creatives have by far benefited from this initiative with multiple deals going their way.
The South African film industry with all of its glory has also stamped on the global audience Netflix is offering. The first two African original series ‘Queen Sono’ and ‘Blood & Water’ are both South African productions making mainstream headlines on and off the streaming platform. The coming of Netflix has definitely given a much more global audience to African films, but that doesn’t conclude that had they not pressed the button, African narratives projected through films would have stayed within the confines of the continent only (we can track back to 2006 when South African filmmaker Gavin Hood won best foreign language film at the Oscars with ‘Tsotsi’).
So far recorded, Mo Abudu has two film adaptations up her sleeves topped with an exclusive production for season two of her well-received legal drama series ‘Castle & Castle’. Akin Omotoso has also been given the green light to develop the first Nigerian original series with Kate Henshaw starring in it.
In as much as the Netflix fuel is a great catnip shared amongst everyone of African descent, we cannot erase the begging question of how come to date no Ghanaian producer/director/executive has made it on the updating list of creatives scoring big budget productions with the most successful streaming subscription service.
Evidently, the snub is not attributed to the longevity of an industry to warrant its composers a branded Netflix original. It’s also not subjected to the quantity of thrown-in films on the platform by an industry, neither about quality. We can arguably compare Shirley Frimpong Manso’s ‘The Perfect Picture 10 Years Later’ to the Mo Abudu family drama ‘Chief Daddy’ of which the former is an expertly scripted piece than the latter regardless of their genre difference.
The past 7 years has not seen frequency in delivery of theatrical films on the Ghana film market. The industry is shackled in a time where an entire year pens close to five films securing Silverbird Cinemas and West Hills grand premiere slots as against the exciting times from around 2006 through to 2013 that the industry was able to boast of at least each month to a movie premiere at major film theatres in the country. Nigerian cinemas were just a stone throw away and practically the second home for Gollywood’s most revered titles.
Despite the choppy state of Gollywood, the industry has managed to make a Netflix appearance with five movies sourced from the lens of some of its best directors (if we are basing it on whose film is available on the 192.95 million paying streaming subscribers’ platform).
All five of them have their own uniqueness in terms of the extent they reached on different platforms before heading to Netflix. ‘Azali’ by Kwabena Gyansah came close in scoring an Oscar nomination in the best international feature film this year, but failed to get shortlisted for the final five that rounded up the category. ‘Potato Potahto’ got screened at the Cannes Film Festival upon its release in 2017. ‘Keteke’ afforded its lead actor Adjetey Anang his first Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Award in 2018 while ‘Sidechic Gang’ was a big hit across cinemas in Ghana aside the best actress in the lead role nomination it nabbed for its three lead actresses at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.
Alone and collectively, these films might have some scratches bridging its reach for an 80 to 100 percent rating, but such production flaws can equally be identified in a selected number of Nollywood and South African pictures blue ticked as standard films just because they are on Netflix.
The creativity of our long-running storytellers should not be subjected to questioning as a result of the sideline the Netflix window has brought about. Yes, stories about our historical figures have not been dug and dusted from the archives of history books into cinematic classics. Best-selling novels authored by seasoned writers have not been adapted into screenplays. Real life events have not lived on the big screen. Disturbing societal issues don’t get much audience in Gollywood films to help shape conversations. Our exploit in the film world has always been based on fiction stories, which are equally good to tell but looking at the speed and attention Nollywood is catching on the global scale with their narratives tapped from different angles aside fiction, there are no excuses Gollywood can justifiably work with to ascertain its delay in hitting the global front.
The industry’s most endowed directors such as Shirley (the force behind ‘Devil in the Detail’), Leila Djansi (the impeccable storyteller behind ‘Sinking Sands’ and ‘Ties that Bind’), Samuel Bazawule (the genius behind ‘The Burial of Kojo’) are more than capable of inserting an original African film or series masterpiece on the platform.
Seasoned actors such as Majid Michel (Crime to Christ), Nana Ama McBrown (Madam Joan), Adjetey Anang (The Pledge) amongst a few others are well equipped with prerequisite performance skills worthy of attracting striking roles. All that needs to be done to unleash the excessive potent of the industry’s buried creativity is to change the working with mood board.
If truly the Netflix inclusion propaganda scripted under the theme ‘Made by Africans: Watched by the World’ is for all African film creatives clipping the narrative into a much appreciative point of view, then Gollywood has all the potential to help raise the stake high.
Maybe it’s not a sideline as we’ve assumed it to be but rather a delay caused by budget prioritization. Whatever the reason may be, Gollywood should not be left out of the bigger picture. We need to be seen.