I had the privilege of watching a screener version of Sinking Sands a while back before it even went into Ghana but opted to wait until a number of people see it before offering my review. I also managed to sneek into the 2nd screening in Ghana although late, caught the movie with its packed audience.
Sinking sands is a story of Pabi and Jimah, a school teacher and a rural bank teller respectively who fall in love, get married and two weeks into the marriage, disaster strikes leaving Jimah disfigured. Insecurity, guilt, anger, shame, pity, abuse, rage, bitterness, sorrow and a number of others pack bag and baggage and come to dwell in the home of the couple.
Recently, Leila Djansi, the film writer, director wrote a note on her facebook profile on women being independent and ended it by saying “People have said I cannot make movies with panache. I can but I choose not to. How many people live with panache in our societies today? I want to tell real stories. Film is escapism, but some have more escapism than others. When I tell a story, I want to make sure you have nowhere to hide. No matter who you are, woman, man, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, you will find yourself in there. I want my work to be a catalyst for change.”
Did she succeed in doing this with sinking sands? Yes she did. I know I have discriminated against people with deformities. I look for nice people to be friends with. Did I find myself in Pabi’s character in Sinking Sands? I sure did.
The film beings with school children at a school assembly where the headmistress, played by Doris Sackitey, demands school fees. The scene transports the viewer into our own youthful days when we used march to our various classrooms with lively tunes. On that same day, Pabi is told by the headmistress she has been accepted for a teaching fellowship program after which she would become a school principal. Here we learn Pabi’s dream is to become a school principal. This is where the suspense begins because somehow, you know that is never going to happen.
Later, we meet the love of her life, Jimah Sanson, played by Jimmy Jean Louis, when he is flirting with a pretty girl from His office. Pabi sees this and her insecurities fall into place. Jimah takes days to prove to her that “no one means anything to me but you”. Pabi’s foster mother, Mama May, played by the legendary Akosua Agyepong also encourages Pabi to not allow jealousy rule their relationship. “love and pride are not friends. It is easier to love when you are open”. “if he really loves you, he will not take advantage of you” are some of the words she uses to admonish Pabi. We meet Mama May when she is sick and on her death bed.
I will try to finish my review without giving a play by play of the story. But, these scenes set the tone for what will occur on the film later.
What I loved about Leila Djansis writing style is that, she uses the tool of set-up and pay-off very very effectively. Her dialogue is mature and she also makes use of a lot of metaphors. The imagery of the movie, the composition of shots are all superb and very mature. Very original and it seems it is the camera telling us the story. I will not be surprised to see some filmmakers start to steal some of her camera compositions. Each scene had its own story to tell.
The choice of music used is another thing I must touch on. The sound track is very soft and soothing, and where real music it introduced, its either also very metaphorical or very significant.
If you are looking for a film that is easy to follow and laid back, Sinking sands is not for you. If you are looking to stimulate your senses, you cannot avoid watching Sinking Sands.
People cried, people laughed; there were screams in the theater, angry viewers yelled encouragement to Pabi, but then sympathized with Jimah. A woman beside me covered her eyes when Jimah sodomized Pabi. The hall broke into applause when Dr. Zach, played by Yemi Blaq run away from the temptation of giving Pabi the comfort she needed. In the end, the film got a resounding round of applause it deserved.
Sinking Sands is an emotional roller coaster. It was not totally perfect though. I am not sure I enjoyed Mama Mays performance. It was a bit too Ghanaian for me. I understand she had Tuberculosis but that coughing was too exaggerated. Maybe the director kept it there for local audiences to have something familiar.
Then Chris Attoh. Chris Attoh is not an actor. He is as fake as Gucci bags in Los Angeles fashion district. He works in Shirleys movies because her movies are not original pieces but entertaining ones. So he works fine there. He uses his face and fake, cheesy accent to add pomp and pageantry to Shirleys works. Which is why I enjoyed a sting in a tale because he was not in it and there was no fake accent apart from Lydia Forsons once in awhile emphasize on her “r”. I really hoped Leila would have done something with him. She tamed him a bit, but it was not all that at all. It was so obvious because against actors like Yemi Blaq, Jimmy and Ama K, Chris Attoh is simply below par. He could be good if he starts being original. I asked the director about it because his scenes did not gel with the movie at all and she said it was left in there for the Ghana audience. But I think sometimes, too much marketing strategies spoil the soup.
The general question before the movies release was could Ama K deliver. People who know her say she is extremely hyper active, talkative and happy-go lucky. Did she bring it home? She did! I have said that a good director can make an actor happen! Ama Abebrese delivered. I think Jackies, Nadias and Genevieves better watch out because Ama K Abebrese nailed it. In fact she is an actress. You could see each fear in her eyes, her body language was on point. She was believable from beginning to end without ever having to get melodramatic.
That is another thing I must commend the director for. No unnecessary shouting. No screaming. The story chilled you because it was delivered in a very somber mood. Even when Jimmy confronted Yemi, his was much leveled. It scares you.
The cinematographer, Adrian Corriea was very deft in his handling of the red camera. The color schemes were superb and seemed to change as the story got darker and more depressing. Asher Binghams editing was beautiful. I loved the cuts and the odd transitions. The screen suddenly cuts to black and opens on intense action. Jeffrey Dyals sound design was very subtle and beautiful allowing you to get lost in the movie. Costume was on point. Above all, the makeup!! Abby Lyele should get a job in Ghana and teach them how to do make-up. You have to watch the film and enjoy the make-up yourself.
Over-all, I give Sinking Sands 9.5 out of 10. It is not a movie, it is a film! I can see an Oscar for this film if it were shot in our local language, (if Chris Attohs scenes are removed).
If you have not seen it, it opens at the Silverbird cinemas Accra on the 17th of December. I am not sure what Ghanaian movie I can compare Sinking Sands to. Its in a class of its own. Tomorrow, if anyone asks you what films he can watch from Ghana, don’t blink, just say Sinking Sands.
I was not surprised to see BBC at the screening event interviewing Leila Djansi, I also heard that CNN and Reuters Television covered the exclusive screening which was attended by the “ who is who” in Ghana. Sinking Sands was also endorsed by UNIFEM Ghana for its Say No to Violence against women campaign championed by world celebrity Nicole Kidman. The film has also received four official selections into prestigious film festivals to be announced later.
Ghana should be proud! Our film industry has arrived.
I believe you are waiting for me to say something about the sex scene? I will not. Go watch it for yourself. Just be prepared to go with your husband or boyfriend. Stimulating and tasteful are understatements.