BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
A movie set in the past demands a lot more attention to detail than is normally required. An accidental telecoms logo, a fashion wrist band from a modern label or a random contemporary slang by an extra can be the film’s undoing, and so Keteke, set in the 1980s, teeters at the brink of a cliff and must deliver on its retro promise to not fall to the ground.
Keteke (a Twi word for Train), is a 2017 comedy Ghanaian film that tells the story of Boi and Atwei, a heavily pregnant couple who go on a journey to see Atwei’s mother and probably birth their child with her. They become stranded when they miss their train to Akete, where she lives, and have to walk to the next train station for lack of an alternative means of transportation. In between arguments, a quest for food and a rush for safety, they miss the next train yet again, and with the baby threatening to come they must find strength and support in each other.
Keteke employs a beautiful yet simple story. It is dialogue-driven as it focuses on its two main characters, but the conversations are intelligent and hilarious and they reveal a lot without overwhelming its audience. There is also music, rich soulful music by the drunken train crew that just careens you into excitement. Keteke isn’t just properly written, the casting is nearly perfect as Lydia Forson and Adjetey Anang (who both play Atwei and Boi respectively) play their roles to taste and complement each other well. They make us believe in their love and root for them.
The attention to detail is extended even to the way Atwei carries a big box in spite of being heavily pregnant. One moment, you want to scream at her husband to relieve her of the load and be a gentle man, then you remember that feminism is a somewhat new invention, and at the time, most women were probably taught to endure more hardship because, well, they’re women.
With its clean pictures, engaging dialogue and humor, the film also uses brilliant props and make up. The scene where the train is approaching, spots a jumping man on its tracks and tries to stop before hitting him, screeching to a halt right in front of him is precise and would almost instinctively elicit a round of applause.
There is also the mystery surrounding the old wizard, who is reported to eat newborns for a living. The viewer is left to wonder whether to associate the later complications of Atwei’s delivery to the ‘washing’ by the wizard, or the stress by the green box she was burdened with, or the running, or the fact that it was indeed her expected delivery date. The filmmaker doesn’t plan on giving you a response, and leaves you with all that to chew as the credits roll.
It is hard to miss how all the drinking men on the train are in character throughout. They are overjoyed at the prospect of having birthed a child through their music, and are emotional at the same time, perhaps more emotional than the couple themselves.
Lydia Forson takes on a role completely different from what we are used to, and Anang is an exact opposite of what he was in Devil in the Detail, the only other film of his I have seen with him in a lead role. Here, he plays silly, annoyingly petty but love struck, and does so convincingly.
Straight to the point and a beauty to watch, Keteke scores highly on imagination and entertainment without trying too hard. Directed by Peter Sedufia, Keteke also features Joseph Otisman, Clemento Suarez, Jeneral Ntatia and Raymond Sarfo.