Last night I went to the Grand Première of the second installment of Kwaw Ansah’s 24 part series The Good Old Days at Ghana’s National Theatre. The series, a period piece based in post-independence Ghana, began last November with the film The Love of AA (2010), which follows two young peoples blossoming love as they secretly exchange elaborate love letters. When their parents discover and read their love letters they are subjected to torturous humiliation that sends audiences rolling on the floor with laughter. The second installment, Papa Lasisi Good Bicycle (2011), continues by following the adventures of the Mensah family, this time focusing on the exploits of the three Mensah boys. In this segment the boys hire bicycles from the unscrupulous Papa Lasisi and have a day of fun and mischief. Eventually their money runs out and they have to face the consequences of their debts and little white lies.
Yes, at times the story lolls and the occasional modern car or satellite dish can ruin the mise-en-scène, but I really appreciate Kwaw Ansah’s commitment to the subtleties of everyday family life and his ability to take the awkward unpleasantness of growing up and make an audience roar with laughter. When you think about it The Good Old Days can start to seem a lot like Ghana’s equivalent to Leave it to Beaver—a little too moralizing and maybe too cheesy to be realistic but full of wholesome charm that’s hard to ignore. Rather than devote more time to the intricacies of this unreasonable comparison, I’d like to simply state that I think a health dose of feel good nostalgia is important every once in a while, even if it does distort history a bit.
On a side note, I was excited to discover that Kwaw Ansah has put out his classic works on DVD (12 cedis) and VCD (10 cedis). Last night I picked up a copy of his award winning film Heritage Africa (1989) and I am told you can pick up copies of Love Brewed in the African Pot (1981) and The Love of AA at TV Africa. So many people made DVD and VCD purchases of Kwaw Ansah’s films last night that I’m hopeful that there could be a market for the older Ghanaian feature films that are in the Information Services Department Central Film Library if they could be preserved and made available.