The Burial of Kojo (2019)


Direction: Sam Blitz Bazawule
Country: Ghana

Ghanian writer/director Sam Blitz Bazawule delivers a sensitively imagined tale, showing his undeniably precious qualities as a multifaceted creator of moods in his grand feature debut The Burial of Kojo. Impressively, there’s nothing sloppy in this micro-budgeted piece entirely shot in Ghana with a local crew and many non-professional actors. Each frame was conceived with an enchanting if poignant aura in order to heighten the characters’ emotional states. I was immediately drawn into this trancelike story loaded with mystery, guilt, resentment, magical bewitchment, and the common burdens of life.

Esi (Cynthia Dankwa as a child and Ama K. Abebrese as an adult) narrates her childhood, feeling she never brought luck to her struggling father, Kojo (Joseph Otsiman), after she was born. Yet, they have a very close relationship, living in a tiny isolated village surrounded by water, to where Kojo moved seven years before.

Unexpectedly, they are surprised by a couple of visits that will change their lives. The first one is from a blind stranger seeking a child with a pure heart to whom he can entrust a sacred bird he has been protecting from an evil crow. The second one, more familiar, is Kojo’s brother Kwabena (Kobina Amissah-Sam), who insists on taking his brother back to the city. A strange request, if we take into account their complicated relationship due to tumultuous past incidents.


Kojo finds a miserable city with no opportunities and ruled by aggressive Chinese exploiters who took over the gold mines, depriving the local families of sustenance. But are they really the ones Kojo should be afraid of?

I loved the way the film was shot, from the oneiric tones of Michael Fernandez’s cinematography to the vivid, harrowing scene of eating a roach alive to the stylish architectural perspectives captured in the city. Watching this human story unfold is an uncommonly moving experience that makes The Burial of Kojo a small yet potent African film.


Nakom (2016)


Directed by T.W. Pittman and Kelly Daniela Norris
Country: Ghana / USA

African cinema usually rekindles revealing stories tinged with quirky colors and enlivened by warm feelings in a pure intention to reflect the continent’s inhabitants’ lives. That’s exactly what you can expect from “Nakom”, a drama film centered on the inner conflict that arises in a man divided between keeping his cultural roots and traditions alive and following his personal dreams, which can only be fulfilled within a contemporary environment.

The dilemma dilates in Iddrissu (Jacob Ayanaba), a medicine student in Ghana’s metropolitan city of Kumasi, who is forced to pause his formation to go back to Nakom, the rural Northern village where he was born. 
The sudden death of his father was the reason for his unplanned return. As the eldest son, both family and the village chief expect him to stay and become the new ‘master’ of the house. After all, he’s a valuable element since he knows the old and the new ways.
This is a real headache for Iddrissu who comes across with predicaments of a primitive culture he had almost forgotten.

His clever sister, Datama (Grace Ayariga) lives consumed by the frustration due to the impossibility to move out of the city in order to study. The motive is mainly financial but the mentality of the villagers doesn’t help. Her discontentment is mirrored in phrases like “things are always for men to decide” or “what's right or wrong is for men with education”.

Iddrissu also has to deal with his indolent young adult brother who got a 15-year-old cousin pregnant, the quarrel between his real mother and his ‘junior’ mother - the second wife of his polygamist father who left a debt, and the schemes of his little brothers who prefer to play all day instead of attending school. On top of this, he has concerns about tending the farm that will provide for all his family during the whole year. He had never given so much importance to the rain before and confesses: “in the city, nothing changes when it rains. Here, the earth breathes.”

The uncertainty of the future, translated into eat or not to eat, or the lack of medical help, mirrored in an agonizing situation lived by his cousin Fatima (Esther Issaka), induce panic in Iddrissu, a man of noble character who is not indifferent to his people. Will he give up his dreams to take care of them?

The team of directors, Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman, who met at Columbia and now share a production company, serves up an interesting narrative packaged with authenticity and crisp focus.
Having the vast Ghanaian fields as the backdrop, cinematographer Robert Geile does a pretty nice job in capturing attractive frames while the original music by the Senegalese singer/guitarist Daby Balde infuses a gentle yet vivid ambiance that helps to maintain the African spirit well alive.

Nakom” is no frivolous tale and comes bolstered by Ayanaba’s strong acting debut.