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Opinions of Friday, 16 October 2015

Columnist: Abdul-Karim Mohammed Awaf

Movies killing our culture?

The liberalization of the airwaves has not only fast-tracked the flow of information but has also increased the options on the menu of audience by giving them different and appetizing recipes of television, online or radio content.

Movies serve as an indispensable item on the menu of all television broadcast. Both local and foreign movies whet the appetite of the ever dynamic audience who are ready to accept anything that will add a little flavor to their diet. The Ghanaian television screens are now awash with soap operas also known as telenovelas. Media owners and media managers are taking advantage of it to rake millions of cedis through ads.

Our local movie makers have also developed a notoriety of churning out movies with nudity, sex, and violence as their favourite punchline. They have probably done so in order to match-up with the more advanced foreign produced soap operas dumped into our markets.

I recently listened to an entertainment programe where some Kumawood movie producers vowed to produce pornographic movies as a result of the unbridled competition they endured from soap operas that have taken centre stage on Ghanaian TVs.

But the irony is that the key features of some of the locally produced movies are no different from the imported soap operas. The only difference, maybe, is the fact that the foreign ones use white characters whilst the locally produced ones feature dark people or local characters.

The portrayals of foreign cultures in our local movies were thought to be the exclusive preserve of the so-called “elite” movies where some of the characters tried to sound more English than the queen herself. But the trend is fast changing. I recently watched one Kumawood movie in which the main character was a “kunfu master” and I wondered how such a movie reflected the African identity and the African way of life. Why can’t we tell our own story in a compelling manner that exhibits our unique but diverse arts and cultures? We have developed penchant for everything foreign including food, fashion, music and now movies.

Recently, as I sat with my brother, his wife and their 6 year old girl to watch one popular soap opera currently screening on TV, a scene popped up where two characters were engrossed in a deep passionate kissing. All of a sudden, the room remained as dead as Awudome Cemetery. At that point, the facial expression of my brother and his wife suggested to me that they wished the earth could divide and swallow them up. Uneasiness was broadly written on their faces as my brother struggled to toss his legs up and down whilst his wife tried fruitlessly to clear her throat.

That was the first day they properly wished the lights could go off, but unfortunately, that day, ECG was not going to listen to their prayers. They clenched to their fist as they hoped that scene flipped away.

Uncharacteristically, my brother’s 6 year old child sat silently as she struggled to understand why the room had suddenly turned dead.

All of a sudden, my mind went riot with the worst possible scenarios of what the 6year old was thinking.
There may be several people who have encountered similar or worst experiences of this nature. Movies are supposed to help people draw important lessons as most often characters exhibit certain roles that reflect our untold stories. Movies in essence, mirror society, and therefore how a particular storyline is told is very important. How a particular character pulls through a particular problem help people to solve their own problems they faced.

One of my lecturer once told the class that he had warned his wife and children against watching telenovelas. His reason? Telenovelas teach people who are either married or are in relationship how to cheat on their partners. We laughed hysterically and took whatever he said with a pitch of salt. But after some deeper reflection, I can’t but agree with him.

We cannot underestimate the power of movie's influence on people's relationships. Movies have now set the new bar for an ideal and successful relationship. Partners who fail to meet the standard set by movies are seen as unromantic and uncaring.

Movies are powerful platforms that showcases and markets our rich cultural heritage to the outside world. Movies are also the perfect media that can help correct wrong perceptions society still hold against the disabled, women and other minority groups.

We can’t look at the blind side of life and say it is business as usual without appealing to the conscience of society.

The cinematography board, the media and the civil society must embark on massive campaign to reverse this growing trend. This will not only save our struggling cedi from due pressure as a result importation of unnecessary products which can be produced locally but also help preserve our cultural identity as a people.

Writer: Abdul-Karim Mohammed Awaf
National Service Person