No scripts for local language films: fate or choice?

“A film without a script? Highly unprofessional!”

This has been the view held by many critics of most of our  films produced in local languages, predominantly Akan.

In as much as such sentiments make sense, I doubt if the  makers of our local language movies have a choice other than not  to use scripts.

No one can underestimate the impact that the “no script phenomenon” is having on the quality of our  movies industry.

Foul language and shouting bouts have become the order of the day because actors  are made to come up with their own lines on the spur of the moment when given scenarios.

It’s almost impossible to do re-takes to correct some of the indecent language. That’s because interruption of the artistes’ dialogue can affect the flow of acting and also cause lots of frustration for the actors.

A film’s aesthetics is greatly compromised as one cannot take shots from different angles or vary image sizes because the artistes cannot exactly repeat their lines. They, however,  cannot be entirely blamed  for this.

How many of our scriptwriters can read and write in Akan  or any other local language for that matter?

One can argue that the scripts can be written in English and later translated into the local language by a professional translator.  Even if that is done, the truth remains that many of our actors  cannot read scripts written in local languages.

Don’t forget that it’s not only actors  who must read and be conversant with scripts but the entire crew as well.

It is a fact that many of our directors and cinematographers cannot boast of the ability to read and write in local languages.

Obviously, we do expect the crew to  use  English versions of scripts while the actors  use local language versions.

Obviously, it would not be feasible to employ the services of teachers or interpreters  to translate and teach both the cast and crew how to read and understand scripts before shooting.

This general lack of ability to read and write in our local language is one of the major factors affecting the quality of our local language  movie business today.

We cannot eat our cake and have it. If we want our local language films to move forward in the right direction, then we must collectively help solve the challenges facing it. Otherwise, we will always spend time criticising but not seeing any  changes.

Assuming that it is feasible to employ the services of teachers and interpreters, we must not forget the cost element and whether producers would be able to handle that.

Many of the film producers are already complaining about inadequate funds and lack of appropriate marketing structures, thereby forcing them to produce low standard movies.

That again raises the issue of how efficient our movie marketing mechanism is. It is therefore a matter of the producers cutting their coats according to the size of their cloths.

All the same, we all cannot  sit unconcerned as the badly-produced movies continue to have negative impact, especially on young viewers.

Lately, many of us find ourselves complaining a lot about the increasing use of insulting language in our society and  wonder where that trend could be coming from.

It will not be an exaggeration to state that both adults and children are picking up these habits from the films they watch. Such is the power of film and the destruction it can cause  if not properly harnessed. Kumawood stars

The government must have a role to play in all these. On some occasions, government officials had complained about the quality of our movies  but none of them have  been publicly heard  congratulating or encouraging  producers of good films.

It will be a great idea for the government to set up a national film scheme to award the best movies in areas such as story line, cinematography, editing and design.

We live in a country where teaching and learning of our local languages have been relegated to the background. Very little time is allotted to the study of local languages in our schools.

More time is dedicated to the study of  the English language,  not forgetting that all the other subjects are taught in English language as well.

Unfortunately, communication in the local language is completely banned in some schools and pupils caught speaking it are punished.

What’s more, some parents have also instructed their wards not to even speak the local language at home. We therefore grow up being foreigners in our own country. The lucky ones may be able to speak it but cannot write nor read.

It is also sad that students at the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) compulsorily learn German and French while our local language is nowhere to be found in the institute’s curriculum.

We must take the learning of our local languages seriously in order to build a generation able to read and write in those languages.

As a short term solution, the current players in the industry must embark on a local language literacy course with support of stakeholders in the business.

It will be a move in the right direction if every student of any performing or creative art institution like NAFTI or the School of Performing Arts  at the University of Ghana is made to compulsorily study one local language?

Students majoring in scriptwriting must, as part of their degree requirements, be encouraged to take up scenarios from  local movie producers and provide  well-supervised and translated scripts as part of their services to the country.

The School of Languages could also be encouraged to support the players in the local movie industry by helping them write down their stories.

We all would love to see a big change in our local movie industry but it comes at a cost. All the same, we must act now if we want to improve the local movie situation.

We must take the learning of our local languages seriously because the effect of the low standard of our movies and the indecent use of language are beginning to have a negative toll on all of us.

Everyone capable of helping to improve the quality of our local language films must quickly come on board.  It is apparent  the producers and the artistes cannot do it on their own.

By:  Alexander Obuo Owusu 

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