jeudi 25 août 2011

Ghana Vision.

Image non attribuée, Monster Evil Pretact, s.d.

The culture of packaging has been changing our everyday life over the last 50 years. Plastic bags, perfume bottles, washing powder boxes... Contents are getting more colourful, brighter, even - as some commercials state - cleverer. Even if the washing powder doesn't wash any better than it did before. The same principle applies to the marketing of movies, especially in the teasers and posters that constitute a film's "packaging". Having Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, and Nicole Kidman in the same movie (and therefore in the same poster) will help the producers to profit from their investment. Success is based neither on the story nor the filmmaker, but rather on the faces and names with which you advertise. Alexander Medvekine invented the "Kino-Train" in the 1930s when he took a train across the nascent Soviet Union in order to shoot, edit and screen almost "live" what he saw. Uzbeks got to learn about Ukrainians, Latvians got to see Russians, Turkmen got to look at Armenians. The Kino-Train was the first mobile cinema and a highly political gesture.

In Ghana since begining of the 1980s, in towns such as Accra and Kumasi, video clubs followed a path similar to that of the "moving cinema". And if the content of the movies they were showing was not linked to life in Africa, the screening was at least a social gesture, a way of bringing people together in an exercise of "direct communication". The film posters from Ghana follow the two rules laid out above: a good image sells more tickets and you have to go to the public if you really want a lot of viewers. They were produced for travelling cinemas which typically consisted of a TV, a VCR, an electrical generator, and a car. As they moved through the cities, towns and villages of Ghana, these cinemas sometimes presented blockbusters, sometimes underrated and nearly-forgotten movies, most of them produced in Hollywood. The names of the directors were of no importance, those of the actors only when they're superstars. What each poster needed was an image to create the desire to see the movie. By unconsciously following Medvekine's DIY technique and applying the simplest rule of packaging, the artists managed to create funny images mixing monsters, (half-) naked women and superheroes, then setting them against naively painted and distortedly proportioned African landscapes. Even if the painter hadn't seen the movie but just a few stills. Yet showing things that are not in the movie may be why the poster work so well as packaging. After all, isn't packaging usually sexier and better than the product anyway?

Thibaut de Ruyter, The Medium is the Message in Ghanavision, Hand-Painted Film Posters from Ghana, Bongout, 2009, p.5.

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