Award-winning Gold Coast Lounge is one of 46 titles from 14 African countries screened as part of the London-based FilmAfrica festival in 2020. Below is a preview of the film, which will have its European Premiere on Saturday 8th November.
NEVER will I be able to look at the traditional tools for making Ghana’s national dish fufu (waduro ene woma) in the same way again after watching Pascal Aka’s 2019 film Gold Coast Lounge. This black and white film noir, described as Afro noir, packs a punch (literally) and from start to finish had me on the edge of my seat – sometimes barely able to contain my anticipation.
Steeped in stunning cinematography and powerful symbolism, the film paints a vivid picture of life, love, betrayal and the tussle for power in John Donkor’s empire – the lucrative drinking spot Gold Coast Lounge.
John, played by seasoned actor Adjetey Anang, is the ‘mafia’ kingpin who runs things in the city and breeds fear and respect in all that cross his path. After a spell in prison for his drugs and prostitution racket, he returns to the Lounge where he is instructed by government to clean up his act. His daughter Akatua, played by Zynell Zuh, is an equally intimidating character whose intentions towards her father and the Lounge emerge as the film progresses.
Although never stated, the film seems to be set around early independent Ghana, but has a distinctive 1940s Hollywood vibe to it along with the music of that time. There’s the influence of conks (permed slicked back hair as sported by John) and the Western-influenced paa-boi side parting worn largely by men, which were all the rage during that time right up until the 60s. But this film is not just about the West’s influence.
If we take Gold Coast Lounge to be a metaphor for the tussle between colonialism and Black consciousness, we see all the ingredients of that drive towards self-governance in rising star Daniel/ Nii Lamptey, John’s adopted son and part of his inner business circle.
Daniel, played by Alphonse Menyo, shows promise. He is an effective and passionate leader who believes that the Lounge can flourish without the need for foreign exports but with a focus on products made in Ghana. And it does for a time when he takes over as head, following the dramatic departure of John.
This film is rich. Rich in imagery, rich in acting quality (from such greats including Fred Amugi and Akofa Edjeani), rich in the twists and turns of the plot and the reverence paid to Ghanaian cultures and traditions. The characters move effortlessly between Ga, English, Twi and Ghana Pidgin. And as a non-Ga speaker, it was refreshing to see the language dominate in a way that is usually the preserve of Twi when Ghanaian films break into international markets.
But the celebration of Ghana is not just visible in this fluid linguistic exchange. The Ga traditional religion features strongly in many cut-away scenes involving Daniel as does traditional Ghanaian music. And the arrival of love interest Rose, played by Raquel Ammah, adds to the gripping twists in this bloody tale.
For me, Daniel’s character steals the show with his spirit, passion and loyalty. Equally enigmatic is Pascal, who steps away from his titles as writer, director and music composer and assumes the on-camera role as the crooked and scheming Wisdom/Kwaku. Wisdom is another one of Donkor’s adoptees and foot soldiers whose fall from grace in the eyes of Donkor, sets him on a mission to regain his esteemed position. At all costs.
The film (Breakthrough Studios) is tragic, brilliant, complex and yet simple as draws on the age-old issues that we can all relate to….love, betrayal, power and hate.
Screened at the 2019 African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) to high acclaim, this film returns for its European premiere at London-based film festival FilmAfrica on Saturday 7pm – 10.30pm. The film can be viewed here in conjunction with Film Africa’s online and dine screening in partnership with Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Ghanaian chef Zoe Adjonyoh).
The film is eligible for the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. If you want to vote for it click here.
FilmAfrica is the Royal African Society’s biennial festival celebrating the best contemporary cinema from Africa and its diaspora. Established in 2011, the festival offers a respected platform for African film and increased film choice for London audiences. this year’s event is supported by the BFI Audience Fund, awarding funds from the National Lottery, and the Miles Morland Foundation.
For more on Film Africa, visit previously screened films here.