Moving over to our ‘Twi-Dialogues’, we could not help but offer an analysis of sort of this dazzling featured film debut by Ghana native, Samuel Blitz Bazawule; The Burial of Kojo. Bazawule, a rapper and film-maker who goes by the stage name, Blitz the Ambassador, is no stranger to magical realism in his music videos and short films. Although, his latest release, The Burial of Kojo, takes his unbounded creativity to new heights.
Set in rural Ghana, The Burial of Kojo follows the life of young Esi, played by Cynthia Dankwa, and her father Kojo, played by Joseph Otsiman, as narrated by an older Esi, played by Ama K. Abebrese. Throughout the film, viewers are transported in-between the realms of the living, and that of the spirits, until in some scenes, the two realms collide in striking mirror images of one another.
With the birth of Esi, Kojo dreamt of the greatness his daughter would bring to his life. He dreamt of her light that would brighten his grim world and life over the waters of rural Ghana. After she was born, he taught her of her magic, and that of the world. Through the shared bond between Esi and Kojo, Bazawule highlights the importance of the roles African fathers play in the lives of their daughters. And so, as a result of this shared bond, Esi felt a responsibility to look after her father.
In one scene, this responsibility and divine purpose is foreshadowed when Kojo asks Esi if she ever wanted to leave rural Ghana and move to the bigger cities like Kumasi, or Takoradi. Esi said she loved her life over the waters, but in the case her father left her for the big city, she would transform into the wind and search high and low for him.
At this juncture of the film, viewers do not know the depths of the manifestation in those words. In fact, with the transportation between the spiritual and living realms at any point in time, it was almost impossible to guess the next direction of the film – even with the massive foreshadowing in its title. In any case, Kojo eventually took his family to the big city after convincing from his brother, Kwabena, played by Kobina Amissah-Sam, in hopes that city work could be the salve for his family’s financial burdens.
In the start of the film, viewers are told that Kojo left the city for the country-side, but are not told why. In the middle of the film, a blind elderly man canoes his way to Esi and gives her a white bird that is said to be sacred, which only she must protect from the crow, as she is pure of heart. This scene and those which followed with dreams of the crow, again foreshadowed Esi’s divine purpose, but still remained vague enough to keep the viewers’ eyes glued searching for more clues.
In the city, the exploration of new themes is introduced when Kwabena tells Kojo of the changes the city has seen at the hands of the Chinese since Kojo was last there. “They are everywhere”, Kwabena says. With those words, the grim future of Africa flashes before our eyes, as its present hints at future colonialism by the Chinese disguised as aid, which our respective nations are currently scurrying for with disregard of the past history.
In the film, the focus is on the illegal and legal mining activities by the Chinese in Ghana searching for gold. Kwabena explains to Kojo of the many local miners left scurrying for scraps of gold, with some even resorting to illegal options, as they cannot compete with the heavy machineries brought in by the Chinese. This theme explored by the film is incredibly important, as it highlights the responsibility of African artists to use their artistic mediums in bringing light to this grave issue currently facing the continent that could prove detrimental to its organic future growth, as history has shown.
At this point, the film climaxes, as viewers begin to understand what had been foreshadowed with the words of young Esi, and the role of the white “sacred” bird. Kwabena convinces Kojo into an illegal mining heist, and what happened there revealed Esi’s divine purpose in the life of her father, and in her own life. She found her way into the spirit world, and her words began to manifest as she harnessed the power of the wind to carry out her divine purpose. We could all learn a thing or two from Esi, who as a young girl harnessed the magic of the spirit world and manifested it into herself to execute her divine purpose.
The Burial of Kojo is the first featured film by Blitz ‘the Ambassador’ Bazawule, which follows the 2016 release of his short film, Diasporadical Trilogia. With the success of this film, which has made its way from its initial release in Ghana to US cities like New York and Washington DC; and now, to Oscar-nominated American film-maker, Ava Duvernay’s distributing platform, Array, and most recently, to NETFLIX. Although this is not the first film to make it out of African cinema and into mainstream western streaming platforms, it reinvokes the presence of African magical realism into mainstream western cinemas. With its fairytale-like plot with striking cinematography and intricately composed soundtrack, The Burial of Kojo now lands Bazawule a seat at the table with legendary African film-makers like Djibril Diop Mambéty and Alain Gomis. We are excited for what other visually compelling artistic bodies of work rests in Bazawule’s future. Until then, be sure to stream The Burial of Kojo now on NETFLIX.
Production companies: Wheel Barrow Productions, African Film Society
Distributor: Array Releasing
Cast: Cynthia Dankwa, Ama K. Abebrese, Joseph Otsiman, Kobina Amissah-Sam, Mamley Djangmah, Henry Adofo, Joyce Anima Misa Amdah
Director/screenwriter/composer: Blitz Bazawule
Producers: Ama K. Abebrese, Blitz Bazawule
Executive producers: Jesse Williams
Director of photography: Michael Fernandez
Production designer: Selorm Dotse Kudiabor
Costume designer: Afriyie Frimpong
Editor: Kwaku Obeng Boateng
In Twi and English