Ghallywood can be considered the ‘grand-daddy’ of Filming In Africa, with a history reaching all the way back to the cinema of Ghana established by the British Gold Coast Colony in the 1920’s. This type of cinema was branded Black Star Films and was widely distributed to all corners of The Gold Coast Colony. However only the affluent were able to enjoy the development of this type of cinema and it was dominated by colonial influences.
FROM THE GOLD COAST TO BLACK STAR
In 1948, the Gold Coast Film Unit began which eventually lead to the present-day Ghana film industry. After independence in 1957, the Ghanaian government invested further in the industry and added to the already existing infrastructures with production, editing and distribution facilities. In the 80’s Ghanaians began exploring ways, using video technology, to distribute films made in Ghana to a wider audience. By the late 1980’s the trends spreading popular culture around the world created a steady demand and supply of Black Star Films distributed as home videos. However the industry, which has suffered a major decline from 1966 onwards, both because of the lack of state funding after Ghanaian Independence, and because pirated and copied videos prevented the film producers from growing their revenue, struggled to regain its footing.
THE REBIRTH OF GHALLYWOOD
It was not until 2015 that Ghanaian production companies recognised the need to resurrect Ghallywood in response to the high demand for streaming content amongst Africans in the diaspora. The, once sophisticated, infrastructure to revive the film industry was still intact, but film-makers and production companies needed to inject considerable resources into developing good quality streaming content.
The National Film Authority (NFA) in Ghana has come to the party by providing the ‘ecosystem’ and structures required for production companies and African Fixers to promote high-quality content created for a global market. However, Ghanaian film-makers feel that there are still not enough local distribution platforms for Ghanaian content producers to have the desired impact globally.
STREAMING AFRICAN CONTENT
Netflix has demonstrated its commitment to investing in filming and content production driven by African content producers, however this commitment has to match reliable, secure investments that are likely to grow. The industry giant therefore favors countries like South Africa and Ghana that are politically stable, with well-developed infrastructure and a local pool of talent and skills to partner with.
In order to resurrect Ghallywood, A-List Actors such as Idris Elba, Nadia Buari and Juliet Ibrahim are modelling productions geared for international streaming platforms in the Nigerian film industry. These local celebrities are well positioned to resurrect Ghallywood because they understand that Africans in the diaspora want content that establishes a deeper connection to African culture than content produced by other nations. They also understand the business side of the industry well.
At the 2019 Africa Choice Awards, actress Nadia Buari was given the title ‘African Screen Goddess Of The Decade’ in recognition of the success of her “Celebrity Cooking Competition” Reality Television Show, co-produced with the South-African-based Evod Platform. When interviewed about the secret to her success, she created a buzz on social media by declaring 2020 ‘The Year Of No More Free Things’. She explained that the only way for local film and television industries to grow and thrive is for celebrities to turn down requests for free appearances in exchange for publicity and exposure.
With the long and tumultuous history of Ghanaian film production, it is evident that Ghana is once again well positioned to re-establish its position as a leader in the African film industry. With its strong infrastructure and support from the international film-making industry from actors to distributors, it is a choice location for film production.