Why You Need to Watch An African Election Before Ghana Votes On December 7th
An election chronicling the specifics of the 2008 Ghanaian election between primary candidates, the late John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress and Nana Akufo Addo of the National Patriotic Party- clearly not a Blockbuster release, but it does have implications that are broader and more universal than you might think.
On the eve of the 2016 Ghanaian presidential election and on the brink of President-elect Trump’s America, we found it timely to sit down with director Jarreth Merz and chat about his Sundance and Independent Spirit Award-nominated documentary An African Election (2011). But before you’re able to comprehend his compelling reason for telling this story, you need a little context.
Actor, producer, and director Jarreth Merz, well recognized for his work as Simon of Cyrene in The Passion of The Christ and Flores in the Jack Huston-starrer Ben Hur, not to mention his soon to be released role in History Channel’s mini-series Six is biracial, of Nigerian and Swiss descent, yet, he was raised in Ghana. Complex, right? Why is his identity relevant? Well, Merz had the recognition that he was a storyteller when he was at the crux of trying to figure out who he was.
“You know the debate. Am I black? Am I white? What in me is black? What in me is white? This led me to a crisis- literally a crisis in my life. And then I had to decide to get out of it myself. So I tackled it by going back to Ghana,” remarks Merz.
In deciding to go back to Ghana and tell a story, Merz had a plethora of appealing narratives and true-live stories that he could’ve brought to life, but there was something novel about an election story set in an African country that appealed to him- an opportunity to expose the humanity in Africa. “I stumbled onto an image of politics. I became aware that I did not like how people like myself were being portrayed in the media- how people of my origins in Africa were portrayed and how I started believing these portrayals,” affirmed the director.
But even the passion in telling this story couldn’t subside some of the financial and logistical challenges, including the challenge of how to tell a well-balanced story about an election that would keep both local and international audiences entertained. In doing so, Merz stuck to traditional three act structure, focused on primary characters, and made it a point to expose the spirit of the election and how it transformed the social and cultural landscape of country.
And the result? A visually stunning and surprising story, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. One that rekindled Merz’s love for Ghana and one that will make you, as a viewer proud to see that yes, Africans are capable of not only governing themselves, but doing so democratically.
Ghana goes back to the polls on December 7, 2016 and as Jarreth Merz says, “In America and in the West, our lives don’t generally change that much after an election. In African countries, it can drastically change or not.” We’ll be watching with our Ghanaian brothers and sisters. Will you?
Visit this site for the full movie:
And be sure to check out Director Jarreth Merz’s Ted Talk ‘Filming Democracy in Ghana’