Yaba Badoe talks about her experiences as writer and filmmaker, her film The Witches of Gambaga and its reception, and her current documentary project about the renowned Ghanaian writer, Ama Ata Aidoo.
Yaba, tell us a bit about yourself, your experiences with cinema growing up in Ghana.
I’m a Ghanaian–British documentary filmmaker and writer. After graduating from King’s College, Cambridge University, I worked as a civil servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana, before returning to the UK to do a second degree. I then became a General Trainee with the BBC. I’ve taught in Spain and Jamaica and worked as a producer and director for the main terrestrial channels in Britain. My TV credits include Black and White, a ground-breaking investigation into race and racism in Bristol, using hidden cameras for BBC1; I Want Your Sex, an arts documentary exploring images and myths surrounding black sexuality in Western art, literature, film and photography for Channel 4 and a six-part series, VSO, for ITV. I go back and forth between London and Accra and work for part of the year as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, where I make films for the Audio-visual Unit there.
I left Ghana to attend school in Britain when I was very young, so my memories of cinema in Ghana are early ones of Saturday night trips to the Rex Cinema off the High Street in Accra, to watch American movies. I loved them and vividly recall crying passionately at a particularly poignant scene (so it seemed to me back then) of a blonde-haired girl, around the same age as me, up there on the screen, furiously tearing up a beautiful blue party dress. If she didn’t want the dress, I reasoned, she could at least give it to me! I’ve loved cinema ever since for its power to transport me into another world.