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Leila Djansi Shares Her Thoughts On ‘GOLLYWOOD’ As Name For Ghana Movie Industry

Hollywood–the pinnacle of glam and wealth–the signature of success for anyone in entertainment.

Hollywood in California was once an agricultural village, an independent county/city with Los Angeles as its neighbor.

Filmmakers fleeing from the east coast and Thomas Edison sought a new central filmmaking location; the city of Hollywood was the smart choice. The sun was up long, it’s always sunny in California. The area boasted of varying landscapes, from deserts to mountains and even snow.

Above all, it was close to the Mexican border. If Edison’s men went looking for them for stringent rules and lawsuits, they could easily flee to Mexico and would not be extradited.

The city blossomed into a filmmaking hub and ultimately became known as the center of studio films.

When you say Hollywood, a noun, you refer to the center of powerhouse filmmaking. Same way when you mention the city of Chatsworth and film in the same sentence, everyone assumes you’re referring to the porn film industry.Yes. There is a section in Los Angeles that is considered the porn central of filmmaking.

There are films made outside of Hollywood that are called either independent films, micro budget etc. When you see a studio film, you know. When you see an indie or micro budget film, again, you know.

Bombay had the same set of characteristics as Hollywood. A city dedicated to Hindi language filmmaking. What was intended, as witticism became a serious and accepted name–Bollywood. Metonymy. Hollywood and Bombay, now called Mumbai are cities dedicated to filmmaking. The etymology dates back to 1932. When did Ghana receive independence? 1957? Ok. We’ll come back to that.

There are films made outside of the Bollywood Identity. Each has its style and traits.


Simply called the Nigerian film industry until Matt Stainglass, in an article to the New York Times, came up with the sobriquet. Nigerians did not name themselves. The only person who can aptly define what he meant by Nollywood is Matt Stainglass himself. What style filmmaking was he referring to since there is no dedicated film hub in Nigeria? Nollywood celebrated Nollywood at 20 few years ago. Nigerians were making films long before Nollywood, which was born on the back of a film called Living in Bondage. A man importing VHS tapes was about to lose money when the importation was taxed high/banned. To sell his tapes, he made a film and put it to all the tapes. Ingenuity. That is how Nollywood was born. He birthed a genre within an existing industry. Filmmakers suddenly saw a quick and affordable way to churn out movies.

The name has been so adulterated; there is no real definition for it. Even Ghana films are called Nollywood. The sobriquet itself is just a form of imperialism.

There is now New Nollywood. To set apart films made with bigger budgets, better technology and a different style of storytelling. There are films like B for Boy by ChikaAnadu that do not wear the tagNollywood or New Nollywood. They prefer to be called Nigerian film to assist in a branding that is not judged sight unseen, based upon the style of filmmaking Nollywood has been known to represent.

Nollywood does not represent an industry, going by its etymology. It rather represents a style, a genre of filmmaking.

What then is Gollywood?

The etymology will be: Richard Boateng and a group of people woke up one morning and decided to name the Ghana film industry Gollywood, with absolutely no idea why they chose that name, and drag all films and filmmakers, kicking and screaming under this hole ridden umbrella. It must have “wood”. Period.

Most of the people carrying the offensive photo are folks who have not made films in years. Those that do are not making the kind of films that fit today. Their transmission has been stuck in opera square mode since the VHS era. They are not abreast with the times or technology. So, if they are branding their style of filmmaking Gollywood, all well and good. Do not drag other films and filmmakers into the fray.

If they really wanted to carry everyone along, this seminar would have been a place to start the debate on what to call the film industry and the style of filmmaking qualifies to live under such brand. All those who have worked under the umbrella of the Ghana film industry and would be affected by its brand would have been asked to vote.

The government is playing politics. Sharing money via ASOG in the name of film residuals. Residuals that filmmakers like me, Leila Djansi who has spent more than 3.5 million Ghana cedis in the past 8 years of making films in Ghana, have not received. Government releases the funds to ASOG and they men over there, products of Opera Square, share it among themselves. But the filmmakers making films that rake in box office and international appeal are left out. Because I do not reside in Ghana, I was not even aware I had residuals due me because it is all done in secrecy.

It is this same money sharing enterprise that birthed all these associations and people who organize one small workshop and quickly run to government for taxpayers money when our hospitals have no beds. Please use that money to import selfless doctors to help save lives in Ghana.

I was almost killed over the foreign Oscar submission board because a cross section of filmmakers thought I had been given some money by the Academy. I was not. I used my own funds and sponsorship from companies owned by my friends to fund the workshop and submission process.

It all boils down to “something small to chop chop”.

When Richard Boateng formed the Film Directors Guild of Ghana, I was in Ghana on a visit. He invited me to the launch. I went. I returned the invitation and he came to my home in the Volta Region. I remember telling him to seek after the interests of film directors – welfare, pension, distribution, and education. It went into one ear and came out through the other. To be fair, most of the working directors failed to show up to the event because ‘who is Richard Boateng to convene this without seeking my consent.” It occurred with the Oscar workshop. Some working filmmakers did not show up. They were feeling too important; it wasn’t their idea to control. Ghanaians are very quick to call peoples humility into question because they themselves are not humble. We are a proud and arrogant people. Which is why we always look out for humble people we can control.

I am of Ghanaian descent; I have made three films in Ghana and about Ghana that currently live on mainstream distribution platforms. I do not want to be called a Gollywood filmmaker! I do not want any of my films to be called Gollywood. Being a black woman with an accent in Hollywood is a challenge. You have to prove yourself and be twice as good to get a quarter of what others have. Do not muddy my waters.

Identity of an industry is not only in its name. It is content. Waakye on wheels is not popular because of its name. It is popular because of its taste. Let us first determine the identity of a Ghanaian film, and then we can talk about nomenclature– if Ghana Film Industry is not good enough.

And to Ghanaian filmmakers crying foul over the name. Unity. Unity, my friends. I recall an actor’s guild called Equity that failed to launch. Another actress, speaking to me said if she weren’t going to be the president of the association, she would stand against its formation. There is the crux of our problems. “It must be me. I must be the center of attention.” We like recognition way too much! We consider Kumasi and opera square filmmakers illiterate but they are way more united and that is why they can organize a seminar and give you a colonial identity, that is why they can share ASOG residuals and leave others out. It’s Book-long aka pride and greed. Bickering, gossip and rip each other apart. Instead of being partners in progress, we are rivals in competition. I am personally so cautious of Ghanaian filmmakers based on numerous bad experiences; I stay away from them entirely. No love, no trust. How is this fixed?

To Madam Catherine Afeku. To adequately support/build the film industry, you need all voices at the table—Leaders of the industry should be not appointed by political appreciation. A thorough representation of all branches and genres of films and filmmakers is needed. Hear from all of us and shape the industry in such a way that will benefit the country. Surrounding yourself with a few greedy people who have only gained and not contributed anything to sustainability of the industry is sad. They know next to nothing about how a film industry should be ran or organized. Look at their tax returns, their books and contributions before you seek advice from them. Look at the type of films they have put out. If that is what you want to identify the Ghanaian life with… by their fruits. Judge them by their fruits.


Leila Afua Djansi is an American and Ghanaian filmmaker who started her film career in the Ghana film industry.

She took a job with Socrates Safo’s Movie Africa Productions where she worked as a Writer/Line Producer. Whilst with the company, she wrote Ghana’s first Gay/Lesbian rights screenplay The Sisterhood, the film that included the late Ghanaian screen actress Suzzy Williams. Djansi worked with the state owned Gama Film Company, where she wrote and produced Legacy of love.

In the United States, she established Turning Point Pictures, an independent production company geared towards social issue films.

Djansi’s first film was awarded a 2009 worldFest Platinum Award for the film Grass Between My Lips, a story of female circumcision and early marriage, set in a northern Ghana village.
In 2010, her debut feature, I Sing of a Well was nominated for 11 African Movie Academy Awards. The film won 3 awards: Best Sound, Best Costume and the Jury Special Award for Over-All Best Film. In 2011, Djansi was presented with the BAFTA/LA Pan African Film Festival Choice Award for the film I Sing of a Well.

Djansi’s 2011 film Sinking Sands received 10 African Movie Academy Award nominations, with Ama K Abebrese winning the Best Actress Award and Djansi earning the Best Original Screenplay Award. At the first Ghana Movie Awards in 2011, Djansi’s Sinking Sands received awards for “Best Art Direction”, “Best Costume”, “Best West African Film” and “Best Picture”. Sinking Sands was nominated in 14 categories.

Djansi 3rd directorial effort Ties That Bind received a Black Reel Awards Nomination in 2012. The film also won the Best Diaspora film at the 2012 San Diego Black Film Festival.

In 2016, Leila Djansi directed Like Cotton Twines an exploration of the practice of Trokosi in her native country of Ghana. The film was nominated for “Best World Fiction Film” at the Los Angeles Film Festival

Djansi’s work and contribution to the Ghana film industry has been recognized by UNiFEM Ghana, The African Women Development Fund, The Ghana Musicians Association and other social issue minded communities.

Source: Livefm Ghana

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