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Away Bus is a film about a mother who loves her children, and daughters who love their mother. In short order, the daughters are presented with an impossible situation and pursue the only path that seems available to them to do right by their mother and prevail.
Unfortunately, Ghana is not well known for its contributions to world cinema, but Away Bus might compel you to take a look. More specifically, Peter Sedufia and Kofi Asamoah, the directors of Away Bus might compel you to take a look. Here-in lies a film that balances multiple genres, while still driving a plot forward in an economic fashion that would make Billy Wilder proud. There are moments of comedic relief, moments of despair, moments of happiness, and moments of suspense. Sedufia works magic with a story that he wrote himself and gives us a story that may feel, at times, like a typical Hollywood narrative, but all of the time, like a story grounded in Ghana and the state of current affairs.
Another reason you may want to take a look? If you leave a review on Letterboxd, you might be joining me as the only review on Letterboxd. I’ve never seen this happen in all of my years on the website! This will certainly be the most obscure film recommended this year,
At one point, one of our main characters is in the hospital. There’s a desperation to the hospital stay in this film that you wouldn’t see in an American film. A plea to “tell [them] I love them.” The reality of never seeing them again is tangible. At several points in the film, there are interesting indictments of religion at play. An uncaring and corrupt older Christian priest. A quoting of verse by a man to justify robbery. A child reverend who doesn’t hesitate to throw others under the bus to save himself. A child reverend who is preaching the gospel in the first place! (Samuel Nana Yaw Dabo, the actor playing the child, is outstanding. Absolutely outstanding.) Away Bus understands that the bible is a book that can be used by anyone for any purpose they may have. One only has to search to find a verse that may lend itself to the cause.
When is the last time you watched a film written, directed, and produced in Africa? I love Away Bus because it gives us a view into a culture despite its seeming adherence to a typical Hollywood genre film. This isn’t a film that is attempting to show Ghanaian society to the outside world. As Ebert once yelled at Sundance; “these people are allowed to be whoever they want to be.” The movie embraces Ghanaian society in all of its imperfectness to tell a story, with an acceptance of those flaws baked in. Foremost, this is a film for Ghana. It can still be taken in by a world audience, and at times employs Hollywood tactics, but the message is rooted in a desire to see change at home. I will also say, Away Bus employs one of the funniest dry jokes I’ve ever seen. It involves an older couple during a robbery. I don’t want to say more than this.
As the film approaches its end, a character pleads for forgiveness from peers, as they attempt to make amends for the trouble they’ve caused. As the people who were wronged attempt to pick up the pieces, chaos ensues. At the risk of drawing the wrong conclusion, the indictment of Ghanaian culture seems evident. The ending of this film will surprise and challenge you. As the film takes its final lap, we’re left with a conclusion that bravely diverges from Hollywood and demonstrates that little separates the cultures of this planet; we are all working against our worst natures for the betterment of our kind.
Written by Peter Sedufia, Kofi Asamoah and Yaw Twumasi, Directed by Peter Sedufia and Kofi Asamoah
English and Akan
Stray Thoughts from the Editor
August is all about African film!
While researching films from Africa to build a month of viewing around, an old truth became very clear to me: the truth is tough to come by. In my bubble that is America, if I’m unsure how to parse an issue that arises, a typical maneuver would be to open up the world wide web and search for a take from someone I already generally align with. (Think: Jon Stewart, Jon Oliver, Ben Shapiro, etc.) (Just kidding about Ben Shapiro.) While researching holidays in Africa as a jumping-off point, I came across the Ghanaian holiday ‘Founders Day.’ Or should it be ‘Founder’s Day?’
One website, Modern Ghana, posits that Founders’ Day should be a celebration of the multiple people who contributed to a free Ghana. Another source, Wikipedia, (heard of it?) presents two sides and states that Founders’ Day is a celebration of all of the people who contributed to Ghana’s independence, but that there is also a legitimate claim that Kwama Nkrumah is the sole founder worth celebrating. In a fashion reminiscent of the American internet of the 90s and 00s, we can explore many websites that make a case for a specific point of view. Who is correct? It’s a crash discourse in parsing the battle for truth in a world that profoundly disagrees on fundamental issues of fact concerning the genesis and development of said world. I found my instinctual reach for Jon Stewart (or a similar figure) wouldn’t save me here. I realized the weight of the amount of work it would take to develop an opinion that feels even partially formed.
We all have lives that command our attention in myriad ways (kids, plants, pets, jobs, you get the idea) without also having to keep up with the (finger quotes) truth. We rely on figures with whom we see our values aligned to remove the work it might take to arrive at an informed conclusion on an issue. So what if you align with a person of questionable ethics. Ammirite? At least you’ve freed up time to figure out how to pay rent this month.
All of this is to say: Happy Founders Day, Ghana!
Note: This post was updated to include credits for Kofi Asamoah and Yaw Twumasi for writing and directing, respectively.
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