The 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival assembled movie stars from all over from May 11 to 22 and Ghana was not left out. I attended the festival for the first time after years of observing Ghana's new romance with the festival, and in the following report I weigh the importance of Ghana's participation based on the opportunities and examples I observed.
The Cannes Festival is an annual film festival which previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from around the world. Whether on the Boulevard de la Croisette or on the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals (Cannes’ walk of fame), Cannes is noted for hosting the big stars - and now we can add Ghanaian celebrities to the mix.
For the past 5 years, several Ghanaian movie stars have passed through the festival as a result of Ghana Movie Awards CEO, Fred Nuamah’s vision to connect Ghanaian cinema with the rest of the world. But the question I find myself answering most of the time is the role Ghanaian stars play at the festival or indeed whether it is important for them to attend. Does it serve any purpose for Ghanaian stars to walk on the red carpet and pose for rented camera shots? My answer is a simple yes, but this must happen as part of a bigger picture. We should strive to screen Ghanaian movies during the festival and have a more significant presence.
It surely will be an uphill task getting Ghanaian movies to screen as part of the Cannes Official selection, looking at the current state of our movies. The Official Selection serves to highlight the diversity of cinematic creation through its different sections, the two most important of which are the Competition and Un Certain Regard. Films that are representative of “auteur cinema with a wide audience appeal” are presented in Competition, and Un Certain Regard focuses on works that have an original aim and aesthetic. The Official Selection also includes Out of Competition films, Special Screenings and Midnight Screenings, Cannes Classics and the Cinéfondation selection targeting film schools.
Outside of these major components of the Cannes Film Festival, there exists many other opportunities for Ghanaian films to be marketed to the world. Marché du Film boasting in excess of 10,500 participants and 1,500 screenings is the world’s leading market. It forms an integral part of the Festival in the sense that it also facilitates networking and provides accredited professionals with the services and tools they need in order to exchange information, hold negotiations and uncover new opportunities.
There are also Masterclasses given in public by world-renowned filmmakers while The Producers Network presents an opportunity to make international co-productions. There are also the Exhibitions which highlight an artist, a body of work or a cinematographic theme each year.
The various events at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival attracted filmmakers from the big international film markets alongside the small markets such as Korea, Brazil, Thailand and Chile. Africa’s biggest representation as expected was from South Africa.
The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) of South Africa did not only fund the movies that showcased in Cannes but it also rented a pavilion at the grounds to screen those movies. The NFVF is an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture that was created to ensure the equitable growth of South Africa's film and video industry by providing funding for the development, production, marketing and distribution of films and also the training and development of filmmakers. In addition, the NFVF commissions research and produces industry statistics that provide both the public and stakeholders with valuable insights into the South African film industry.
The National Film and Video Foundation screened a number of feature films and short films at it’s pavilion in Cannes including ‘Free State’, ‘Mrs Right Guy’, ‘Kalushi’ and the box office hit ‘Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word’ which stars Ghana’s Chris Attoh.
There have been a lot of talks about setting up a film fund in Ghana, and when it does materialise I am sure we will have to deal with the usual politics of who heads the fund, who gets funded, and ultimately what kind of movies would be produced by the funding. With continuous power struggles and divisions in bodies such as the Ghana’s Actors Guild and the Film Producers Association of Ghana, the future of such a fund at best looks chaotic even without bringing into play partisan politics.
Well, I can only remain hopeful that one day things will improve and we can have more than Ghanaian stars sharing their photos from the Cannes red carpet. South African film maker, Mandla W Dube suggested that Ghana should screen at least one of its iconic old movies as part of Cannes Classics during Ghana’s 60th Independence Day anniversary next year.