African video movies and global desires: A Ghanaian history by Carmela Garritano (review)

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Society for Cinema and Media Studies: Project MUSE
One of the key defining features of most Ghanaian video movies is that they are embedded—either explicitly or implicitly—in Pentecostal Christian aesthetics. Fittingly, a major research perspective, situated at the juncture of religion and film (and pioneered by Birgit Meyer), elucidates how the movies draw on shared Pentecostal beliefs and practices to mediate themes on occult practices. In African Video Movies and Global Desires: A Ghanaian History, Garritano, motivated by her apt identification of the video movies’ “unrestrained and unruly heterogeneity” and their concomitant multiple narrative forms, examines a subject with which scholars have so far not explicitly engaged.2 This characteristic of the video movies as a “shifting and historically contingent discursive field marked by myriad ideologies, anxieties, discourses, and desires” enables the author to explore a historical narration of the Ghanaian movie industry through analyses of selected video movies.3 This [End Page 151] approach allows the author to show the connection between the economic circumstances that gave rise to the industry and the manifestation of these same conditions within the movies’ themes—centered on poverty, work, and gender—that the first generation of producers explored. Here, the author teases out the ways in which the movies normalize and refashion “dominant discourses of globalization, gender and sexuality, neoliberalism, and consumerism.”4 In the same breath, she also emphasizes the manner in which the innumerable number of movies made since the inception of the industry in the 1980s generates a certain ambivalence toward these same themes. The approach also enables the author to explore and elaborate on multiple visual texts and their “variations in aesthetics, narrative form, modes of spectator engagement [as well as] [their] anxieties, desires, subjectivities, and styles.”5 This discussion is in the introduction to the book. In this same section, Garritano presents the book’s thematic focus, offers a short historical overview of the initial negative critiques of video movies by African film and literature scholars, and addresses the global aspirations of the industry’s players when she adopts the term Ghallywood. Additionally, the introduction includes a succinct summary of the five chapters that make up the book. The introduction together with the conclusion provide the theoretical lens of contextual criticism that underpins this work and the historical approach that the author adopts to investigate the huge changes that have occurred in the Ghanaian video-movie industry.
Joseph Oduro-Frimpong is on the faculty of Ashesi University College
book review, Ghanaian movies, Carmela Garritano
Oduro-Frimpong, J. (2015). African Video Movies and Global Desires: A Ghanaian History by Carmela Garritano (review). Cinema Journal 54(2), 151-154. University of Texas Press