Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Review)

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai

aka Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
Written by Christopher Kirkley and Jerome Fino
Directed by Christopher Kirkley

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
An African version of Purple Rain? Of course I’ve got to watch it! It helps that Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It) turns out to be an entertaining film that is pretty unique in character, though be warned it isn’t for everyone. Akounak was the dream of Christopher Kirkley, an ex-pat from Seattle who ended up in West Africa and had a dream of exporting the sounds of the region’s unique music stylings. He has done so with a record label and has become a manager of talent, so the next logical step would be to enter the movie world, and what better choice than an unofficial remake of Purple Rain?

First, some problems. Christopher Kirkley doesn’t speak Tuareg, the local language the film was shot in. But he does speak French, and so does star Mdou Moctar, so Kirkley would explain to Moctar what each scene was supposed to be about and how it was set up, then Moctar would explain that to the other actors, and they would work through the scene. Later, Kirkley had to have the whole film translated, which ended up with a few scenes not fitting in correctly. Some of this is covered up with creative editing, some of it is easy to dismiss as a first-time filmmaker just learning the ropes, and some of it makes you go “Guh?”. As an added bonus, Tuareg doesn’t have a word for “purple”, hence the long-winded title of Akounak Tedalat Taha TazoughaiRain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It, which is just to perfect to not keep as a title, Kirkley obviously agreeing with that sentiment.
Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
Overall, the effect is quite charming, and anyone familiar with African cinema will be right at home, there are multiple points where the setup and composition is nearly identical to the Nigerian and Ghanaian films I’ve watched, with a lot of talking around that seems loosely connected to the story at best. The Purple Rain plot being grafted on keeps the movie going forward and not mired in those talking scenes, which means we get plenty of rocking musical performances and plot drama.
Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
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Viva Riva!

Viva Riva!

Viva Riva
Written and directed by Djo Munga (as Djo Tunda Wa Munga)
Viva Riva
The chaotic urban life of Kinshasa, the largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the setting as rival factions battle over a cache of stolen fuel. Viva Riva! is a great film, among the best I’ve seen in African cinema. While the stereotypes for African films are weird Nigerian/Ghanaian films involving witchcraft, there is a diverse blend of film being produced that deserves a wider audience, and more funding to produce even higher quality cinema.

Gasoline thief Riva returns to Kinshasa with a truck full of pilfered fuel in the midst of the biggest gas shortage in ages. This basically means he gets a huge stack of cash – and the promise of much more, as his fencer is holding off selling the gas until the price goes up even higher! The large amount of American hundred dollar bills gives Riva access to a fast life that most of poor Kinshasa can only dream of. Riva likes the parties and money and being flashy, it is not in his nature to live in the shadows, but to be large.
Viva Riva
Riva’s excess and extravaganza lures past associates to his side. His friend J.M. had settled down from his criminal past, having a family. But Riva’s return means J.M. is now going out all night, drinking and whoring it up. Riva sets his sights on a red headed beauty, Nora, who happens to be the kept girl of the local big criminal thug Azor. Despite the dangers, Riva continually pops up to hit on Nora. His success is due in part to Azor’s own failure, though Nora is far more complicated than just a prize to be fought for. But Nora and Azor are the least of Riva’s troubles, as he is being pursued by a violent and relentless opponent named César.

Viva Riva! excels by having a villain who is thoroughly ruthless, destroying anyone who stands between him and his goal, the gasoline that Riva stole from him. César dresses in all white, wears a fancy hat and wire-rimmed glasses, and speaks calmly, looking the part of an upper class intellectual. Despite the appearances, César is an efficient and brutal boss, quick to order torture and deaths to get to his gas. César manipulates and bribes his way through officials, forcing a female militia commander to help him by holding her sister hostage, and gunning down government officials who detain him over immigration reasons. A cunning and sadistic mastermind helps create a memorable foe.
Viva Riva

Riva (Patsha Bay as Patsha Bay Mukuna) – Riva used to work for César, but has struck out on his own in a very big way. Riva is in a self-destructive spiral while on the cusp of becoming very very rich thanks to a shipment of gasoline he stole. Riva likes parties and money and being flashy, and of course he has a tragic past which has resulted in his living for the now attitude. You can’t run from your past forever.
Nora (Manie Malone) – A kept woman of the local bad dude Azor, which is a pattern she’s followed since her school days. Riva sets out to make her his despite the ridiculous danger of courting the woman of the local bad dude. Unlike most of the other characters, she came from a relatively stable home, but still managed a fall from grace.
César (Hoji Fortuna) – A well-dressed man from Angola, who is in Congo searching for Riva and the shipment of gasoline he stole from him. Is not the kind of guy you cross without horrific consequences for you and everyone in the path between him and you.
La Commandante (Marlene Longange) – Marlene Longange’s female commander (she’s just called La Commandante without an actual name) is roped in to help César due to him holding her sister hostage. Through this, she ends up becoming a wanted fugitive and her life is ruined.
J.M. (Alex Herabo) – Riva’s old friend who was living the family life before Riva blew back into his life, J.M. all to eager to return to the fast lane of drugs and prostitutes and crime.

Viva Riva
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Ghanaian Video Tales

Ghanaian Video Tales

Directed by Tobias Wendl

Ghanaian cinema has become more know worldwide, but where it comes from and how it is made is still a big mystery. Ghanaian Video Tales helps bring up information on the beginnings of the 80s video boom, and the producers and directors who helped make it happen and their involvement in film through 2001. Ghanaian Video Tales is most interested in the horror films coming out of Ghana, the interviews and clips are all geared in that direction. The influence of the church is mentioned, but as far as anyone who watches this knows, every film that comes out of Ghana is a horror film. We know that isn’t true, so there are still stories to be told.

The documentary goes over some of the more famous bits of Ghanaian film, from the hand painted movie posters to the vhs tape distribution to buildings packed with kids watching films off of a vcr. There is talk of growing up going to Accra cinemas (which played mostly Indian and kung fu films) and how those stories helped influence the types of stories the directors want to tell themselves.

But first, a Director/Producer Roll Call!

Richard Quartey
Producer and Director, and special effects and makeup guy who is very enthusiastic about his makeup effects and making films in general. Well read, especially horror books or reference of the occult. Some of the best parts are him showing off his book collection, including Sir Rider Haggard’s She Who Must Be Obeyed, an Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, many other books about the Devil (including Billy Graham’s!), and a Halloween makeup book that is used as a makeup inspiration for actual Ghanaian horror films. He entered the video industry back in the 80s, and likes writing dark stories with Jesus salvations.
Socrate Safo
Producer and Director, gives the most inspired comments about the video industry, but is one of the least featured directors. Which is a shame, considering how his name keeps popping up as a character in all the research I do on Ghanaian film.
William Akuffo
Producer and director, it was his idea to shoot on video and edit with two film decks in the beginning of Ghanaian film. Does witchcraft and juju money films even though he doesn’t believe in them, because those films sell.
Bob Smith Jr
Producer, director, writer, actor. Originally a star of films, became well known as the star of the Diabolo horror film series. Was illegally working in Holland and thrown in jail where he wrote Diabolo 3 script. Is often compared to Christopher Lee in Ghanaian media. Stars in his own productions more often than the other producer/directors. Some people think he actually can turn into snakes like his Diabolo character.
Ashiagbor Akwetey Kanyi
producer and director who isn’t featured much in the documentary, but wants to bring more modern special effects to Ghanaian films

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Abro Ne Bayie 2 (Review)

Abro Ne Bayie 2

Directed by C’emeka Uba (Don)
Written by Samuel Nyamekye, Fred Asanti Kotoko, and C’emeka Uba (Don)

Abro Ne Bayie 2 is the sequel to the original Abro Ne Bayie, filmed at the same time and featuring most of the same cast (except for characters who were witched away in the last film!) It is the same quality of script and special effects that we had last time, except now the plot moves forward a tad bit more. Hooray for that! But it is still badly written, badly subtitled, and a bunch of rambling crazy stuff instead of a coherent story. Don’t expect character development or answers to the question “Why?” You will never know why, because there isn’t a why. It just is. It’s just Ghana, man. Go with it.

For now, we’ve exhausted our supply of Ghanaian films, but we’ve still got the Ghanaian documentary Ghanaian Video Tales coming soon, and that’s like watching 50 Ghanaian films at once. For now, enjoy this next entry in the MOSS Theme Month!

Dufie (Mercy Asiedu) – The evil mom is still being evil…because! There is no reason to her evilness, she’s just bed because she’s bad!!
Mr. Owusu (Kofi Adu) – The hapless Owusu is helpless as witchcraft unknowingly happens all around him. But imagine what would happen if he found out his wife was a witch!
Vincent (Bernard Aduse-Poku) – Vincent is marrying Natasha, no matter what people say, which almost kills him. Because of the whole witch thing you may know about because I keep bringing it up.
Queen Eva (Babara Amayah A. Amantey) – The Queen Witch takes a more active role, appearing to menace people and yelling at Dufie more. She also has an alternate form…
Sunsum (Yaw Adu) – Sunsum is back, sharing his jawesomeness with the rest of the world. Thrill as Sunsum lives in a pot! Get the chills as he holds a cat! More kid in a skeleton suit with a horn on his head action than you’ll ever know!
Natasha (Benny A. Sowah) – Natasha married Vincent, and the destruction of Vincent begins. Until she’s totally de-witched by faith healers! Bu Dufie has something to say about that…
Drools McGee (???) – Drools still has no real name or credits, and he’s barely in this film. But he is, so he rates a Roll Call entry.
Basheba (Anita Acheampong) – Basheba is a new woman sent to destroy Vincent. Jay-Z may have 99 problems, but Vincent has 99 women sent to destroy him.
Queen Eva Monster Form (Babara Amayah A. Amantey) – Queen Eva’s alternate form that is stolen from Shaitani Dracula.

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Abro Ne Bayie (Review)

Abro Ne Bayie

Directed by C’emeka Uba (Don)
Written by Samuel Nyamekye, Fred Asanti Kotoko, and C’emeka Uba (Don)

Africa is a hotbed for cinema, but little is paid attention to their massive film output outside of their native continent. But with a growing visibility at film festivals and overseas markets, the time is coming where African cinema becomes a major player on the world market. Nigeria producing the second most amount of films a year, behind only India. This movie making bug has spill over to nearby countries, and now Ghana has started to get a reputation as a cinematic powerhouse as well (even though they technically produced films first!) Ghana is aided by production companies that have offices based in Europe, run by Ghanaian ex-pats who return to Ghana with big money and movie star dreams. Abro Ne Bayie itself is an example of a local film company (Miracle Films Sudios) with a large connection to a distribution company in Europe (Q-Music out of Amsterdam). But before we look into Abro Ne Bayie, we need to look into where Abro Ne Bayie and the Ghanaian film industry comes from. Prepare for the infodump!

Ghana’s film industry started during colonization, with a colonial film unit of the government. It was later replaced by the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) after independence, which was still state run by the Nkrumah regime (and the parade of military dictators afterwards.) The GFIC got some actual competition in the 1980s, as films made on video began to spring up. The military rulers were instantly concerned, and attempted to control the entire burgeoning industry with a Ministry of Information and a censorship board. Even after the transition to democracy in 1992, the Ministry of Information continued to come out with film guidelines through the 1990s. The Ministry is often concerned with Ghanaian film not being up to the technical or moral standards that they decree, but their influence is nil in recent years.

The video boom of the 1980s and 90s was largely associated with the Pentecostal Christian movement, which experienced a boom in membership at the same time. The membership was partially a response to the government at the time, as people rejected their support and turned to other support mechanisms. Once against Christianity in favor of local religions, the military rulers (at the time, the Rawlings regime) began embracing the church do its increased influence in an effort to use the power for themselves. The Pentecostal movement in Africa incorporates local religions, but revamps them so creatures of legend are all branded as demons or working for the Devil.

Another connection to the movie industry is that a number of theaters hold worship services during Sunday, as an effort to compensate for lack of available films. The Pentecostal movement also has lots of money, due to their emphasis of tithing and church donation, and it was a natural evolution to throw those piles of cash into media to convert more people for more piles of cash. Aside from television and radio time, movies became a big industry of church spending. The church-going audience is a big one in Ghana, as Ghana is mostly Christian (70% – most of which are Pentecostals) with a large Muslim population (15%). Movie producers had a formula for a successful film, which was marketed directly to female churchgoing audiences. Notorious for many reasons director Socrate Safo went outside the comfort zones with his film Chronicles of Africa, which gave a not-to-rosy assessment of Christian missionaries. Chronicles did well at gaining foreign critical praise and won awards at FESPACO (the Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou), but failed to find an audience at home and lost money.

By the time Ghana became a democracy in 1992, the increase in media freedom caused the Ghanaian film industry to explode, increasing to over 50 films a year. Though attempts were made to create truly Ghanaian cinema, the influence of American, Hong Kong, Indian, Malaysian, and Nigeria films are felt to the point of Ghanaian cinema’s voice being less distinct. But still, Ghallywood (sometimes spelled Ghollywood) soldiers on, and in the past few years, the films have become more risque and more prolific. The industry is also modernizing in the face of overseas immigrants returning with handfuls of cash. The documentary Ghanaian Video Tales show films being filmed and distributed by vhs tapes, most of the distribution tapes patched together from discarded videos and tape, and sold from the back of moving musical party vans advertising each new film. A modern film like Abro Ne Bayie (which came out just two years after the documentary was released) is shot on digital cameras and sold on DVDs/vcds overseas. (I honestly don’t know how it was released in Ghana, but probably a mix of VHS and vcd/dvd. One can hope they had their own party van as well!) Our review of Ghanaian Video Tales will cover the early years of Ghanaian horror, and these Abro Ne Bayie reviews will look at a modern example.

Abro Ne Bayie is a mix of English and Twi, the local dominant dialect. The Twi is subtitled whenever the subtitle guy feels like it, which is less often then you would think. Because no one here is likely to grab copies of this off of Netflix, we’ll do a long and complicated plot explanation complete with the patented lame jokes as we go.

And, because we’re extra awesome, this is one of TarsTarkas.NET’s entries in the MOSS (Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit) inaugural Conspiracy (theme month) – Skeletons in the Closet. Check out other MOSS member’s entries on the splash page! Every entry features either dudes in skeleton suits or skeletons/skulls featuring in the plots of films and comics. If you don’t click the link, I’ll break every bone in your body in alphabetical order.

There is lots of setup in these films that go nowhere, and more loose ends than a loose ends factory. It’s almost as if the films’ scripts where more general ideas, written as they went to outline what should be happening. Just when you think there might be epic conclusions, resolutions to plot arcs, or just a sense of things going somewhere, whole chunks of the film are dropped and forgotten. If we’re lucky, we get an offhanded statement that clears things up, but oftentimes opening just as many questions as it answers. But in reality, we might as well put some of the characters on milk cartons, because they’ll vanish without a trace.

From watching lots of films from lots of countries, both epic in scope and ridiculously on the cheap, I am well familiar with different narrative forms in different cultures. But I’m also familiar with films from countries that doesn’t even line up to what is considered good movie structure in those countries. You don’t have to be an expert in world cinema to recognize cheap film production with no script and no clue. The Abro Ne Bayie films are pumped out quick and cheap to get sales as soon as possible, in order to churn out more quick and cheap films. It’s a vicious cycle of cinema torture, and it happens everywhere people don’t demand better.

In fact, from some interviews and articles I’ve read about other Ghanaian film productions, I’m convinced that the same happened here, in that much of the dialogue (especially the arguing between Kofi Adu and Mercy Asiedu) was ad-libbed, and the script was as bare-boned as you’d expect.

Is Abro Ne Bayie a comedy? Comedy Horror? There is certainly attempts to be comedic. The bickering between the mom and dad is definitely supposed to be funny, too bad most of it is in Twi and unsubtitled. So the jury is still out there. It looks like the brother I’ve dubbed Drools McGee is supposed to be comedic. Drools seems to enjoy causing trouble and defying his parents, who want to keep him hidden. But Vincent refuses to treat his brother like crap and isn’t embarrassed about him. When Vincent is bringing heart to the situation, those scenes come off more tragic than comedic. It’s an odd dichotomy that is among the best parts of the film, even if it looks like it was completely unintentional.

Dufie (Mercy Asiedu) – Evil secret witch who conspires to destroy her son….because. We’re never given a reason, but who cares about motivation when a character is evil? That’s the kind of thinking that turned Darth Vader into a whiny crybaby. Arguments between Dufie and her husband Owusu fill up time and pad the film out, while her witch antics also pad the time out and drive the plot. Mercy Asiedu has costarred with Kofi Adu so often rumors of them being married continue to spring up, despite it being not true.
Mr. Owusu (Kofi Adu) – Owusu is the father of Vincent and Dufie’s husband. He spends most of the film not knowing what is going on and arguing with his wife. In fact, his character is pretty useless, and only does something slightly useful in the second film. Actor/comedian Kofi Adu (also known as Agya Koo) has appeared in over 100 films (some articles list that number as high as 400) and is one of the most popular entertainers in Ghana. He originally planned to be a stand up comedian, does comedic roles, but has also branched into dramatic roles and is a prolific singer as well. Married with two daughters, the Ghanaian film industry is so small that he regularly gets calls on his cell phone from fans. Kofi Adu was honored by Ghana’s former president John Agyekum Kufuor in 2008.
Vincent (Bernard Aduse-Poku) – Vincent is the healthy son of Dufie that she promised to her witch coven. Vincent believes in the power of Jesus, so Dufie’s witchcraft has no effect on him. She’s resorted to disrupting his lovelife and conspiring to set him up to marry a woman employed by the witches to destroy him. Vincent spends most of the film unaware of what is really going on around him.
Rosemary (Shasha Opoku) – Vincent’s fiancee, who is immediately disliked by Dufie because she’s not evil. Dufie and the rest of the witches must destroy her.
Queen Eva (Babara Amayah A. Amantey) – The Queen Witch, Eva wears a blonde wig and dirty, filthy clothes like all witches. Her group of followers are each dressed spookily, but only a few are named, including the black painted faced Kpongbo, and the star of our witch coven….
Sunsum (Yaw Adu) – Sunsum is the star of the movie, a crazy kid in a skeleton suit with a horn who dances and freaks out and does general witchery. He can transform into a full grown man and seduce women! How many kids do you know who can do that? Maybe 15. Sunsum is awesome, he’s so awesome he’s jawesome!
Natasha (Benny A. Sowah) – The new woman in Vincent’s life after Rosemary leaves him. She is working for the witches, and vows revenge on Pastor Joseph because he dares to stand in her way.
Pastor Joseph (Gottfred Opoku-Mensah) – Local church leader who unwittingly gets involved in the witchcraft conspiracies because he has marriage advice.
Drools McGee (???) – What is this character’s name? He’s not even listed in the credits or subtitles despite being the focus of several scenes. So we just named him Drools McGee. I guess his full name would be Drools McGee Owusu, as he’s also the son of Dufie and Mr. Owusu, and Vincent’s brother. Dufie and her husband are sort of ashamed of their son, but Vincent is not ashamed and likes spending time with his brother. I think he’s supposed to be comic relief, but he’ll disappear with no explanation in Part 2.

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