I want to firmly claim Akosua Adoma Owusu as a Ghanaian/African filmmaker, although she describes herself as “an American born filmmaker with Ghanaian parentage”. I feel possessive about Adoma (as she is more commonly referred to) because I think she is producing some of the most exciting film work out of the continent and Diaspora. The films she’s made reflect her multiple identities. I first came across Adoma’s work when her award winning film ‘Kwaku Ananse’ premiered in Ghana. Many Africans and indeed African Americans will be familiar with the story of the wily spider who spins his way out of difficult situations invariably of his own making. That film starred the multitalented singer Jojo Abot with co-stars Grace Omaboe, a legend in the Ghanaian film industry, and Koo Nimo the Godfather of palm wine music.

Akosua Adoma Owusu
Akosua Adoma Owusu

Fighting the good fight

My fandom of Adoma rose to new levels when she launched a crowdfunding campaign to ‘Damn the Man, Save the Rex’. The Rex is one of Ghana’s oldest cinema houses. Older folks reminisce about the days they watched the latest flicks there. Political insecurity in Ghana in the 60s, 70s and 80s led to a decline in the Arts which also affected cinema houses. All of them closed down in the wake of military coups and curfews. Currently there is only one modern cinema in Ghana’s capital Accra. Adoma sought to change that dismal statistic by reviving the Rex to its former glory. Her crowdfunding campaign was a success. I visited the Rex after she and her team had begun work – the exterior had a bright yellow new coat, the chairs within the interior compound were a shiny blue. I listened to Adoma describe the kind of films and events that could take place at the new Rex and felt excited about the future of filmmaking and the arts in Ghana. Just as the new Rex was close to being re-launched, Adoma started facing all sorts of challenges and blocks from civil servants.  Rather than feel demotivated she decided to return to the States and create a new body of work. Her inspiration for that new body of work was Rosa Parks who Adoma admires because she “fought a good fight”. That admiration led to her unique retelling of a central narrative in the American civil rights movement.

Nuts about Buses

‘Bus Nut’, Adoma’s latest short film stars MaameYaa Boafo of An African City. This film juxtaposes the audio of the trial of Rosa Parks (who famously refused to give her seat on a public bus to a white passenger) with the story of a young girl who is simply nuts about buses. The visuals of this film use recreated retro images shows the continued ability of Adoma to expand the breadth and style of the films she creates. In speaking about her style choices, Adoma had this to say: “Stylistically, I am concerned with inserting myself in the tradition of African storytelling by developing my own cinematic language.”

Adoma’s film language continues to make an impact. ‘Bus Nut’ is currently in competion at the Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany, and at the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival.

In what I hope will be the very near future, fans of Adoma will be able to watch her debut feature film, Black Sunshine which highlights issues of identity, colourism and albinism.