Ghanaian Film, Children of the Mountain, to Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
Priscilla Anany's debut film, 'Children of the Mountain' will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend. A rare find, the film tackles the hard reality of family vs. self and represents Ghana beautifully.
When Priscilla Anany set out to produce a film about a mother’s quest to save her child in modern day Accra, Ghana, the usual obstacles presented themselves. In the five-year process, Children of the Mountain–which will premiere this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival–was rejected by France’s CNC because the earlier draft of the script was too mystical for their palette.
As for most contemporary filmmakers who wish to transcend the norm, funding was an uphill battle with few breaks. Anany struggled to fund the film with small grants from US entities, and her own purse, but her big break came when her mother’s house was sold. In true African fashion, Anany’s mother strongly encouraged her to go into a line of work through which she could properly “support” herself–filmmaking does not qualify. But when she saw how heartbroken her daughter was after the CNC rejection, and marveled at the success Anany’s production company was seeing in supporting foreign filmmakers in Ghana, her mother decided to help. The funds from her recent home sale were enough to fully fund production of the film.
“…from medicine men to pastors, shamans and pretty much just anybody who claimed they could cure her…”
Committed to telling stories that exonerate and free women–the West African backdrop can often be a place where women are blamed for everything negative, especially the health and destinies of their children–Anany was inspired by her aunt who died very young. On this she says, “My mother told me stories about how their parents struggled to find a cure for her. From hospital to hospital, from medicine men to pastors, shamans and pretty much just anybody who claimed they could cure her. That was my first inspiration, to write a story about a mother who will do anything for her child’s health.”
In many West African cultures, twins and children born with deformities or disabilities were traditionally considered a punishment from the gods and left in the forest to die. Juxtapose this history with lacking medical infrastructure and you have the story of a woman who continues to be torn between the responsibility of raising her child and leaving him for the forest spirits.
The film addresses the unthinkable reality of a minimal state of medical care in so many African countries, and the cultural nuances that make it possible for the disabled and their parents to be alienated from society. Not only does Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) not have access to proper care for her son when he comes into the world; her partner–a man of many seeds–leaves her and allows his mother and neighbors to insult her, insisting that Nuku is not a child but an evil spirit from her “dirty womb”.
In this powerful debut film, Anany has tackled several themes key to understanding realities pervasive across the Continent, but illustrated against the Ghanaian landscape. We see love, we see the power and the danger of religion, we see family, we see rivalry, we see forgiveness, we see redemption.
Watch Children of the Mountain at the Tribeca Film Festival on the following dates:
Sunday 4/17 (SOLD OUT)