What’s up! I’m Marlon, and this is Ulven Reviews: movies and series from all over the world.
Today let’s talk about the 2018 Ghanaian Drama Azali, starring Asana Alhassan and directed by Kwabena Gyansah.
Amina (played by Asana Alhassan) is a teenager living in Northern Ghana with her mother Rukaya (played by Akofa Edjeani Asiedu), grandmother, and uncle Akatok (played by Adjetey Anang).
The family wants Amina to have a better life than them and sells her for a woman who claims to be taking Amina for a better life in the city, but it’s actually a criminal.
The teen manages to get rid of the woman (who I think was a lady pimp) and makes a new friend in Seidu (played by Mohammed Hafiz). Together, they go to Accra, Ghana’s capital, where they intend to make a life for themselves.
However, life in Accra shows to be much harder than they anticipated, especially for a young teenage girl.
According to QuranicNames.com, Azali is a non-quranic, Persian and Arabic name for boys that means eternal. And since this website is for finding baby names, we can ignore the “boys” part.
I think this is the most probable origin for the name of the movie, but why the name of the movie is in Arabic or Persian and not in Akan, the language spoken throughout the whole movie, I don’t know. Maybe the same reason why this channel name is in Norwegian, and not in my original language, or even in English.
Anyway, another little piece of trivia before we begin, is that this movie was listed as Nollywood when I watched it on Netflix, but the movie is not from Nigeria, it’s from Ghana.
Which, by the way, makes it the first Ghanaian movie I’m reviewing here.
Azali tells the story of this 14-year-old girl trying to get by alone, and without money, in this big city. A story us, from the global south, are unfortunately very accustomed to.
We grow up with the lie that the harder you work, the better you will be in life. When most people work as hard as they can and can barely make rent, exactly the situation Amina is in. She starts working carrying groceries, but can’t even pay the roof over her head, so she turns to sex work but is exposed to many other violences.
And we don’t see only Amina’s struggle, we see the other girls who live with her, and her friend Seidu. He starts selling cassava on the streets, but through peer pressure, starts doing drugs and drinking alcohol, what, of course, leads to consequences.
The whole film is very sad and depressing, and the constant rain kinda fits this mood. But despite this never-ending disgrace, the story is easy to follow, it never gets confusing or too ludicrous.
The ending was bittersweet for me, but from a storytelling standpoint, I think it was well-executed and satisfactory.
There are some clear editing problems that clogged the flow of the movie. Some are establishing shots that drag for too long, like when they show the region of Accra Amina is staying. Other are little scenes that seem too disjointed from the overall movie, they serve a purpose, but they don’t seem to fit.
Another blatant problem is the audio is not always synchronized with the video. The clearest example of this is when Seidu shushes Amina and it takes an eternity for the “SH” sound actually to be heard.
The acting is mixed. I like some, like Adjetey Anang as Akatok, Akofa Edjeani as Rukaya, and Ama K. Abebrese as Joan, a longtime friend of Akatok, and I guess they had a romance, as well, but it’s never clear.
Asana Alhassan is not the greatest, but she’s not bad either. Her performance is fine enough.
There was a problem with the performances that I can really fault the actors, I think is more a fault of the director, and I’m talking about the involuntary humor.
There are at least two occasions in which Amina should be sad and crying, and her face is clearly of someone who wants to laugh. And there’s another time, in which an extra is eating or smoking something with a dagger in his hand, and he almost stabs his own face.
Shouldn’t the director say “Okay! Let’s try this again, but this time without the ‘I-wanna-laugh-face'” or “…without almost stabbing yourself in the face”, “what about just drop the dagger?!”.
As a character, Amina is not really interesting. Like Jyn Erson in Rogue One, Amina is much more reactive than proactive. It’s just disgrace upon disgrace, piling up on her. She is the opposite of Seidu, who’s full of ideas and initiative.
There are other characters I like, like Joan, but my favorite has to be Akatok, he has a great character arc. He starts as a lazy scoundrel, and through his journey to find Amina again, he becomes a hard-working man, who values the family.
There’s not much to talk about cinematography and score both are pretty average nothing too special to highlight unless you’re not used to African movies, because sometimes the scores of some African movies can be very characteristic.
Azali is mostly a positive movie, from my perspective. The film has its problems, especially technically, but with the compelling story and character arcs, it manages to captivate the viewer until the end. I’ll give Azali 7 Moons!
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