As I watched and enjoyed the new movie written, directed and co-produced by Hollywood documentary film maker, Leila Djansi, it was the element of good storytelling that made the film stand out for me the most. ‘I Sing of a Well’ is the first installment in the trilogy, ‘Legion of Slaves’ which tells the story of slave trade triggered by the director’s experience at a slave site in her village in the Volta Region of Ghana.
Based on strong research and interactions with traditional orators and historians, ‘Legion of Slaves’ tells the story of slavery not from the clichéd stereotypical point of view of the West but from the African perspective.
Set in the ancient Ghana Empire, in the time of the Mali Kingdom under Mansa Musa’s rule, ‘I Sing of a Well’ beautifully tells the story of how the people lived before the emergence of the white slave traders. Revolving around a love triangle that is fuelled by pure love, passion, uncertainty and abuse of power, the story unfolds with elements of humour, suspense and of course romance.
Prince Wenambe (J.O.T Agyeman) wins the throne from his father when he hands over the kingdom to Mansa Musa for protection from slave raiders. But how long will this protection from the powerful Mansa Musa last until he becomes a slave raider himself? Basking in his glory as a royalty, Wenambe seeks tirelessly after the beautiful Soraya (Akofa E Asiedu) who is betrothed to another, Dume (Godwin Kotey). Following the elimination of Dume, Wenambe eventually succeeds making Soraya his Queen. But with the gods of fate twisting the arms of men to take the path destined for them, this sets the tone for a series of dramatic events that would excite viewers, and evoke emotions that could lead to uncontrolled shedding or tears and laughter.
In addition to the beautiful storyline, ‘I Sing of a Well’ can also boast of a great technical production in leaps and bounds. Shot on the new mini 35mm camera sponsored by Clairmont Camera in Hollywood CA, the crisp photography and Dolby Surround Sound combined with the insightful angels and sequences, the viewing experience becomes even more captivating.
Keeping up with the obvious cross-over and perhaps Hollywood appeal, ‘I Sing of a Well’ was also narrated by Haitian-born actor and former model, Jimmy Jean-Louis. Jean-Louis is best known for his role as The Haitian on NBC’s hit drama ‘Heroes’. In 2006, he landed the role of the leading man and love interest of actress and comedian Monique in the romantic comedy ‘Phat Girlz’ which was set partly in Nigeria.
I also found the casting for ‘I Sing of a Well’ to be a delightful mix of some old actors with some contemporary faces, with the old bringing their experiences to bear heavily on the production. Kofi Middleton Mends was a classic act and although much is not known of J.O.T Agyeman’s acting, he played his royal role with distinction. Other members of the cast include Prince David Osei, Stacy Amoateng, Doris Sackitey, Luckie Lawson, and Prince Yawson. Although I usually find most of the new crop of actors less believable in the roles they play, they were able to shed off their awareness of the camera and to a great extent and acted ‘natural’ on this production.
So am I saying that ‘I Sing of a Well’ is perfect? The answer is no, nothing is ever perfect and there is always room for improvement. In spite of the technical quality of the production and good script, I had a huge problem with the language in the film. I felt it wasn’t consistent with the time in which the story was set. While the kings and some of their subjects spoke almost Shakespearean English, others spoke plain English and some even spoke with almost ‘Americanized’ tones and mannerisms. For instance I heard a word like ‘kid’ which clearly shouldn’t be used in such a timepiece.
Well, the story has just begun and I expect it to get better as it continues. The director has assured me that it’s going to get better and bigger. She says she may just go with the title ‘Legion of Slaves’ for the next installment since her intended title, ‘The Heart of a Warrior’ has already been used, but knowing her unpredictability, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hiding the title from me. The next installment would see the little kingdom now under the rule of Diatta (Prince David Osei) struggling to protect themselves from Mansa Musa, which may just be played by fast growing Hollywood actor, Idris Elba. Will the kingdom be able to successful escape from the wickedness of Mansa Musa’s new heir and when are the white slave traders coming?