The premiere of ‘Pieli: The Rise of Montana’ showcased the leaps of growth Ghanaian film is making, especially that of the budding film industry in the North. But just as it is inspiring to see standouts, it is also concerning to realize how much more work needs to be done in Ghana’s film industry as whole.
Filmed in select parts across the Northern regions of Ghana, Pieli is an epic adventure series that follows main character Katari (played by Adam Abdul-Hanan) on a journey to save his life and preserve his lineage. More importantly, he swims in a pool of self-discovery that helps bind together the different tribes of the North. Brought to the big screens by MESH Ghana in collaboration with OBL, Pieli is a project by novices. From nursing teacher turned director Leonard A. Kubaloe to the entire cast and production crew, the production is a lesson in Ghanaian creativity and outstanding work, making it even more commendable.
The Cringe Worthy
From the get-go, it was deliciously obvious that the series would be unabashedly “Northern” in every respect. The setting boasted of the wide expanse of savannah, an entire dialogue in Dagbani, and even historical references like that of the legend of Tohaje. While the producer’s effort at bridging the language barrier between Ghana’s north and south through film is commendable, the dialogue’s simplicity renders many characters flat – especially the lead character Katari who solely reacts and doesn’t seem to be thinking for himself.
It was also impossible to ignore the sustained portrayal of patriarchal roles of women in the debut episode of the series; some of which might not even exist. For instance, Katari’s mother is seen either running, begging or wailing “ooi!” with her hands on head. Azinima, the gate keeper of the spirit world, needs to be frightened to help Katari, and even more jarring is the sacrifice of virgins which is quite central to the story. Of course this was strongly juxtaposed to the roles of men like that of Katari’s captors and Montana.
The question here is why resort to these degrading roles of women in a fictional tale? To take it further, why resort to using misrepresentations of culture – like the use of a mixture of millet and a virgin’s blood for a sacrifice – when such misrepresentations have stereotyped the way African cultures have been viewed by many? Even for the 1900s, this portrayal of women and African spirituality relies too heavily on negative stereotypical assumptions of African culture effectively casting a negative light on our cultures. It will be interesting to see if and how the female characters develop throughout the series.
The Binge Worthy
One thing stood out throughout the recent premiere: the quality of film making. The lighting, sound, editing and cinematography were very remarkable for the young industry Pieli emerged from. Equally outstanding was the actors’ ability to deliver their lines without those awkward glances we’ve become accustomed to seeing on mainstream TV. In particular, Katari’s father holds some intrigue that audiences would be keen on watching. It was refreshing to see flash-forward and flashback being used in a non-time wasting manner that ultimately contributed to both the aesthetic and understanding of the episode.
With its quality mostly in check, writers can now focus on effectively carrying across a message through entertainment. They have struck on several chords of brotherhood. The portrayal of clans as something spiritually and communally binding away from the image of constantly warring tribesmen, and the ties of family and friendship are all values that Ghanaians need to reflect on.
The Verdict on Episode One of Pieli
The episode rates 6/10 because it was exciting to see this side of Ghana on the big screen and it’ll be more exciting to see how things pan out not only for Katari but this production teams’ attempt to defy the monotony of the current film industry.
Want more reviews? Check out GHMovie Freak and watch the video below for reactions from some of Ghana’s creatives. Did you attend the premiere? What did you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below.