In recent weeks there have been diverging views about Ghanaian films and the influence they have in all aspects of our society. With many people agreeing that we could do more with our films to elevate our consciousness, it is quite refreshing to get to see one more film that adds to the conversation and at least reaffirms that we do have some films that positively influence the masses.
Director Kwabena Gyansah did justice to this screenplay by Wanda Quartey and delivers on an authentic emotionally driven masterpiece.
AZALI tells the story of Amina, a 14-year-old girl living in the Northern Ghana. Her mother choses to send her to work in Burkina Faso to prevent her from getting married off to a much older man. Her choice leaves Amina in the hands of child smuggling syndicate. She together with the other victims are rescued and sent to an orphanage for resettlement to their various homes, but by some cruel twist of fate, they decide to escape and journey their way to Accra in search of a better life. She ends up in the slums of Accra and must find ways to endure life as she struggles to find her way back home.
The film’s story clearly details what could possibly be the situation for most, if not all the “kayayoos” (head porters) we find in Accra who mostly come from the Northern parts of Ghana. They come to city centers either to escape something or just to find greener pastures to make money to support their families back home.
Amina finds herself lost in the streets of Accra, a world she wasn’t prepared for with challenges she certainly wasn’t expecting. She does her best to adapt and adjust quickly, but each turn lands her in a much bigger cesspool of challenges and harm. She is broken in many ways but she still manages to keep the fight in her alive as she approaches each hurdle.
The casting in this film was spot on. Right from the choice of leads, supporting roles as well as the extras who did great at adding authenticity to all the situations in this film.
Asana Alhasan who plays the role of Amina is a pure talent and delivers a golden performance in this film. Her interpretation of the character is flawless and worthy of all the praise and accolades. She holds her own well enough even though this is her first film. It’s safe to say we have found our own version of Lupita Nyongo in her and it’s up to the entire film making fraternity to hold her in that light, help her nature her talent and she would be one of our finest.
The film makes use of Dagbaani, Akan and Pidgin English with English subtitles for the dialogue. It’s very impressive how Adjetey Anang and Akorfa Edjeani managed to stay true to the Dagbaani dialect and delivered flawlessly. You can’t go wrong with these two well-seasoned talents.
The beauty in this film ironically lies in the grittiness and originality of the setting and the choice of locations for the scenes shot in Accra. You get to see how these porters live and survive. It is un-apologetically crude and revealing but still finds a way to show beauty in all that strive. The cinematography captures enough detail to show the beauty of the plains in the North as well.
The sound design on this film needs to be applauded as well. Enough attention was given to the significance of ambiance and its aesthetic accompaniments without interfering with the dialogue. And the sound scoring perfectly fit the settings and the vibe the film needed to have. The VFX and special effects work was also flawlessly executed.
Maybe it was lost on us in the dialogue but we seem to feel it would have helped if the relationship between Akatok (Adetey Anang) and Joan (Ama K. Abebrese) was better explained. The chemistry between those characters was obvious and left us with some questions. We would have also loved to see how Amina’s mother and grandmother were coping in the village and dealing with the fear of possibly never seeing or hearing from her again.
This film deserves a very well-earned 8.5/10 rating after we passed it through our rating scale. AZALI is a breath of fresh air. The story is straight to the point and cuts deep into the conscience of the viewer. There is no denying that we need more stories and films like this. It delivers on entertainment, keeping you hostage for its about 90 mins run time and still leaves you with enough to ponder over long after it has ended.
AZALI translates to “FATE”. Luckily for us, the fate of our industry isn’t sealed already. We have the power to change the narrate and impact lives to make things in our country through film. And this film is a good example of that.
If you doubt that, make sure you go see this film when next it screens. If you do not enjoy it, or if it doesn’t change your skepticism about Ghanaian films then you are free to make your own damning conclusions about the fate of our industry.
AZALI, reaffirms the power of film in our space. It drums home a message that is likely to make a lot of people uncomfortable and that is a film worth seeing over and over again.
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