By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
“Heroes of Africa”, a historical film that explored the activities of Tetteh Quarshie, the legendary father of Ghanaian cocoa, was last week screened to a special audience at the Goethe-Institut in Accra.
The film, which won the first prize in the Ghanaian Films Category of Black Star International Film Festival 2020, revisited the story of Quarshie, who is said to have stolen cocoa seeds from the Island of Fernando Po in the second half of the 19th century.
A former Spanish colony located off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, Fernando Po was noted for slavery, oppression and huge cocoa, coffee and timber plantations, which generated large sums of money through exports.
Although aggressively historical as regards to its subject – the illegal importation of cocoa to Ghana – the approach is rather a modern way of storytelling with willfully stingy explication alongside an assumption that viewers have some knowledge of the Quarshie saga.
Staring Van Vicker, Ian Flemming and Agya Koo, the film is a myriad of history, bravery, slavery, tradition and culture – the tone was set when an elder of a village predicted a glorious future for a new-born baby, who grew up to be the famous Quarshie.
“Heroes of Africa” took viewers on a journey to Fernando Po, where Quarshie grabs a job at one of the plantations and witnesses at first hand the horrors of daily life on the plantations including summary executions of slaves who stole or attempted to steal cocoa pods or beans.
With historical facts intricately fused with fleshy fiction, director Fiifi Gharbin created a story that spanned periods between 1850 and 1879, when Quarshie returned to Ghana with the cocoa beans, which today constitutes one of the major export crops of the Ghanaian economy.
Despite challenges with costumes, locations, cultural and religious, the film disseminated an important historical narrative through motion pictures supported by technical and theatrical innovations in recent years.
Goethe-Institut Ghana supported the prize and screening.
Pix – Black Star International Film Festival