Combine love, a bit of humour, 1980s nostalgia and a pertinent social message about infrastructure underdevelopment and you get Keteke. Keteke, which means train in Akan, charts the escapades of heavily pregnant Atswei (played by Lydia Forson) and her husband Boi (Adjetey Anang) who are hell bent on getting to Atswei’s village to give birth. But they miss the weekly train which forces them on an adventure filled with comic and nail-biting moments.
This Ghanaian film was first screened in March 2017, in Accra, and had its European debut at the London Film Africa festival in October, to rave reviews.
Written, produced and directed by relative newbie Peter Sedufia, Keteke takes a serious look at Ghana’s failing train system and gives a human face to the plight of ordinary Ghanaians who have no choice but to use it.
The idea behind the film came from Sedufia’s contrasting experiences of accessing transport as an adult visiting Finland and as a youngster in his village in the Volta Region.
“When I was growing up it meant that if you missed the car, you would have to wait a week for the next one and that meant missing market day,” he told MisBeee at the festival’s sidelines.
Keen to draw the government’s attention to this social problem, but aware that a direct approach may alienate those in power, Sedufia turned to comedy.
“I thought it was important to make it satirical and give authorities something to laugh about. But while they laugh, I also wanted them to look at the subtext and reflect on that,” he said.
Laughter is universal and this 98-minute film is beautifully funny. It captures the humorous interplay between a young couple navigating through marriage and the imminent responsibilities of parenthood. Sedufia is clear about his target audience. This film is a story about ordinary Ghanaians and explores universal topics of love, hopes and fears, and the highs and lows of relationships, which everyone can relate to.
Keteke is also a showcase of the cinematic splendour of rural Ghana, her traditions, music and people and proves that Ghanaian films do not have to use the ‘Hollywood’ template to be brilliant.
Much of the film relies on raw acting talent which actors Forson, Anang, Fred Amugi and Joseph Otsiman have in droves. But also key is the animation, the camera work, and the skill of musicians such as Worlasi whose opening sequence complements the kinetic pace of the film.
“One thing I didn’t want to do was satisfy a European fantasy of what an African film should be like,” said Sedufia. “I knew that could limit my international appeal, potential award nominations or commercial success but I did not want to be that type of storyteller,” he said.
Instead, it seems Keteke speaks to a generation of filmgoers that are tired of sexually explicit films.
“Because the film is set in the 80s, it meant a lot of older people could relate to it,” he said. “I think with a lot of films nowadays, there is an assumption that if you are making a love story it has to be showing sex. With Keteke, there is a demonstration of love but not through sex, and when the film came out it seemed to be what Ghanaians have been yearning for.”
It is, therefore, easy to see why Keteke – Sedufia’s first feature film – has been hailed as the best movie to come out of Ghana in a long while. The film has been featured on eight in-flight international airlines and the Sedufia’s company – Old Film Productions – is reviewing a contract to distribute Keteke in Canada and the US as we speak. He is also preparing to shoot his next film in December, which he says will focus on universal topic about the side chick in a marriage but coming from an African setting.”
Keteke was one of a series of films showcased at Film Africa 2017 between 27 October and 5 November and was part of the Ghana @ 60 Focus, marking her independence anniversary. Film Africa is the Royal African Society’s annual festival celebrating the best African cinema from across the continent.