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on May 6, 2004
I expected a travel video of the same quality I'm used to seeing, and was quite disappointed. Much time is spent on small, not very professional theatrical and musical presentations, some on politics with an interview with & presentation by the then president, some with the ministers of information (tourism) and economic development. Oh, yeah, some time is spent on the forts and castles built by the Europeans for the slave trade. Much of the narration and some of the interviews are not very audible, and Glover pronounces "personify" PER-son-if-y!
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VINE VOICEon September 6, 2008
"The Forts & Castles of Ghana" has strengths and drawbacks. As promised, the program shows Ghana's famous forts and castles. It also has an A-list Hollywood actor as the narrator (Danny Glover) and it features on-location footage that includes special events and even an interview with the president. For starters, the scope of the program is much broader than castles and forts. Other than being titled inaccurately, this isn't necessarily a drawback. "The Forts & Castles of Ghana" misses the scenic University of Ghana, but it gets most of the must-see coastal places. The audience is taken to Black Star Square, the Nkrumah Memorial, the National Theatre and the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre. Elmina and Cape Coast are the country's two essential castles/forts. The two castles are thoroughly explored, including the bowels which held slaves prior to the middle passage that took them to the Americas. Knowledgeable experts and guides discuss the history of these landmarks. In Cape Coast Castle, a local theatrical group performs a dramatic reenactment of the slavery experience. On one hand, the theatre group tells an important chapter of country's history in a distinctively Ghanaian way. On the other hand, it's just too long as the episode takes up about ¼ of the entire DVD. Surprisingly, almost all of the attention to castles and forts is in the first half of the program; the second half features additional attractions. There is a visit to Kakum Rainforest, Fort San Sebastian and a dedication in honor of statesman J. B. Danquah. This shows what a royal event is like in Ghana -complete with chiefs and President Kufuor. The last ¼ of the program features various federal ministers discussing the Ghanaian economy with an emphasis on tourism. A traditional drumming and dancing performance is given by the Bamboo Orchestra. The last leg of the video is an advertisement for African-Americans to come and find Sankofa or discover their roots. So what went wrong with this DVD? While the source material is interesting enough, the end product is not compelling or entertaining. The production is part of the problem as is the length. This is an 80 minute experience that would have been stronger had it been edited down to 45 or even 30 minutes. About half of this DVD is bogged down with footage of the theater group and the dedication; these sections should have been heavily edited. The minister interviews are also non-essential. Afrofiles and those specifically interested in Ghana may appreciate the depth and content, but as both an educational and travel tool, "The Forts & Castles of Ghana" is meandering and long winded. Classroom students on any level of education will be bored with much of this experience. Fortunately, much of this problem can be fixed with the fast forward button. In terms of the audio, it can also be a bit tough to figure out what people are saying. On a different note, this program made the omission that so many travel and educational products make. It left out the Asante areas in the central part of the country and the exciting north. Given the intended scope, this omission is easily forgivable. As an alternative, there isn't much out there. Vijay Rakhra has released a series of self-produced cultural DVDs; there's the "Families of Ghana" disc and an Anthony Bourdain episode. We're still waiting for a top-notch video production on Ghana. Until that time comes, "The Forts & Castles of Ghana" has its place, provided the viewer keeps a finger on the remote's fast forward button.
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