Pascal Aka’s The Gold Coast Lounge works the trend, embedding a Ghanian crime story within the film noir style of 1940s Hollywood. It adds an authentic Africanness to the dreamy mysteriousness of classic noir. Its dialogue is in Ghanaian languages, the music combines classical African jazz with highlife, and it pursues a theme of colonialism and black power.
In recent years, a number of filmmakers telling stories inspired by Hollywood’s filmmaking but rooted in African culture have emerged.
The story is set in the heart of Accra. A crime family has three weeks to clean up their act before the inauguration of a crime-intolerant government. The family is headed by the revered John Donkor (Adjetey Anang), a man who has just returned from prison for crimes related to drug trafficking and prostitution. He wants to end all illegal activities and reform the popular Gold Coast Lounge.
When John is mysteriously poisoned, his most trusted soldier and legal heir to his empire, Daniel (Alphonse Menyo), takes control of the business, the lounge, and John’s woman – the sultry Naa Adorley (Raquel Ammah). Adorley is an enchanting songstress and the new face of the lounge. She has a history with Daniel, they were childhood sweethearts, and although his boss now beds her, Daniel still wants her. Before his demise, John warns Daniel.
“I see the way you look at her,” he says, “don’t eat that which isn’t meant for you.”
As the new boss, Daniel brings creative, pro-black ideas but he is naïve and there is his obsession with Naa Adorley.
Gold Coast Lounge embraces the film noir aesthetics with its luscious black and white picture, created by the terrific combination of Isreal De-like’s cinematography and Prince Ibam’s lighting. The film noir stock characters are present: Daniel is the flawed protagonist; John is the suave crime boss; Naa Adorley is the femme fatale.
For a director doing a lot of his own technical work—acting, editing, music composition, and writing—Aka does a fine job getting excellent performances from his actors. Menyo owns an intense presence onscreen. Anang is impeccably charming.
Towards the end, the story descends into chaos as more of its mysteries are unraveled. But Aka manages to bring the many moving parts into an explosive but coherent conclusion. It might not as smooth as is possible, but The Gold Coast Lounge works.
The Gold Coast Lounge is showing at the 2019 AFRIFF and is scheduled to screen on Tuesday, 12th November 2019.
Filmhouse Landmark, Screen 1