The Rex Cinema in the Central Makola District established in 1937 and one of the oldest cinemas in Africa.

Watch PERISHED DIAMONDS — Short Documentary on Ghana’s Film History and Present

PERISHED DIAMONDS is a 40-minute 2013 documentary directed by Anita Afonu that offers a brisk history of Ghanaian cinema, beginning with the colonial period through the post-independence (1957) era. It features testimonials from some of Ghana’s veteran filmmakers, artists, and former politicians who witnessed the industry’s auspicious rise under first president Kwame Nkrumah when the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) was established in 1964; and the industry’s eventual collapse not longer after Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup in 1966. Luminaries interviewed for the documentary include Kwaw Ansah, Charles Bucknor, Chris Hesse, Ernest Abbeyquaye, Veronica Quarshie, Kofi Awoonor, Fritz Baffour, and others.

The documentary is much less a detailed documentation of Ghana’s film history and more of a lament over the current state of the country’s film industry — at least as of 2013 when the film was made — and a call to action to restore a lost legacy. Although not much has changed since then. Ghana’s own Idris Elba met with current president Nana Akufo-Addo just last month (February) to discuss introducing government policy that would revive a once-promising film-as-art (and “soft power”) culture. No official announcements have yet been made.

The list of films featured in PERISHED DIAMONDS

Regardless, for those entirely unfamiliar with Ghanaian cinema and its history, this documentary can serve as a rudimentary intro, especially amid a kind of “back to roots” movement, as African Americans flock to the country. For a more detailed text, film scholar Manthia Diawara’s comprehensive AFRICAN CINEMA: POLITICS & CULTURE (1992) is a good start. A google search will also return a handful of essays.

But as Ousmane Sembène quickly came to realize, he couldn’t reach the “African masses” through literature (which is where he started), but he could with film. And director Anita Afonu’s PERISHED DIAMONDS might be the only attempt at a cinematic inquiry into Ghana’s film history. A graduate of the National Film And Television Institute in Ghana (NAFTI), Afonu was interviewed in 2013 for the African Women in Cinema blog.

The documentary was screened at the Goethe Institut Ghana, the Cinema du Francophone Film Festival in Accra, The Filme aus Afrika Film Festival in Cologne, Germany, and Dak’art in Senegal.

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