White Actor plays Black African in Ghanaian film Elmina

March 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ato and the townspeople listen to their chief

In what he expects will seriously challenge your suspension of disbelief, performance artist Doug Fishbone came up with an intriguing ploy. This “white guy from New York” living in London assumed the lead role in the all-black Ghanaian film production of Elmina. It is the latest in a series of art explorations by Fishbone that seek to disrupt viewers’ sense of perception and reality. The film deals with the struggle of local residents in the Ghanaian coastal town of Elmina to hold on to their land, against the wishes of a corrupt chief, when oil is discovered there. Much of Fishbone’s past work fuses humor and satire, in which he places consumers in the awkward position of questioning their own understanding of representation and culture in the media. Well, in this film there is little comedy, except if one considers the insertion of Fishbone as the lone white character amongst an otherwise completely Ghanaian cast in a movie written and directed by Ghanaians. This would hardly be an issue, except for the fact that nowhere in the film is any reference made to the fact that he is

Doug Fishbone stars as Ato in "Elmina"

white; we are supposed to not notice that the lead character is “the odd man out.” In other words, he is a white actor playing a native Ghanaian named Ato, even stating in one scene: “we’re being cheated by the white people!” It turns out, however, in a modern “globalization” twist on the old colonial narrative – that the oil company exerting influence on the chief is owned by Chinese. It is further interesting to note that Fishbone, who co-produced the film, released it on Video Compact Disc (VCD – the movie medium of choice in many West African countries for their cheapness and ease of duplication) almost immediately, and also simultaneously released it in Ghanaian cinemas, thereby essentially beating the pirates at their own game. It was also screened at the prestigious Tate Gallery in London, and at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Seasoned Ghanaian actors Kofi Bucknor, John Apea, Akorfa Asiedu, Kojo Dadson, and Redeemer Mensah also star. So is this film Fishbone’s work, or does it belong to the Ghanaian director Emmanuel Apea, Jr.? If the filmmakers do give an answer, it’s as clear as mud. Listen to Fishbone talk about this film after the jump. Curious to know your own thoughts after viewing the trailer above. It certainly raises all kinds of interesting questions, which is one of the things Fishbone hopes to encourage from his art anyway. Elmina, (2010) dir. Emmanuel Apea. Bless…

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