Ghanaian premiere of MULTIVERSE

Blog / By Christina Månsson

How it all started: film director Juul van der Laan was making a film about science in Africa. She wanted to identify the sparks that enhance the creativity, freshness, and innovativity of Africa’s bright minds. For five weeks, with her camera, she travelled through Ghana on her own. The film MULTIVERSE Ghana is the outcome of that journey and also the first part of what is going to be a series of films about science in Africa. But before that happens, it was time for the Ghanaian premiere!

The premiere took place on November 11 in the brand new auditorium of The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra. Construction workers were still busy working on the rest of the building since only the Auditorium was finished...

The academy had earlier been housed in a relatively small and rather worn-down structure next-door, -unfortunately reflecting earlier neglect of science in the country. The new building, however, will be bigger and better. It will have its own guest house and solar panels to opt out of the power cuts that have to be dealt with multiple times a day when relying on the national grid.

Musician Koo Nimo had arrived early in the morning all the way from Kumasi along with six of his band members to perform at the entrance of the Auditorium. It was very special to see a musician of his stature, -a legend of the Ghanaian entertainment scene-, playing and singing while the guests entered.

Computer lab at AIMS
Computer lab at AIMS. Screenshot from the film.

Over the phone, Van der Laan describes the session after the screening of the film. “I only realised later how great it actually was. There I was, on stage, behind a long table, with on my right side Professor Allotey, one of the main characters in the film, a prominent scientist and one of the major driving forces of science education in the country, speaking inspiring words to the youngsters in the audience about being brave enough to ask questions and Professor Andam, the first scientist to hold a PhD in physics in Ghana and vice President of GAAS, who introduced the film and chaired the Q&A afterwards. And directly on my left sat Koo Nimo, who closed the Q&A the way only he does it -by telling stories. Stories about science and about how Prof. Allotey was the one to discover him when he was young. The little known fact is that this famous musician started his career in a biochemistry laboratory at university."

Van der Laan adds that Koo unexpectedly revealed to the audience that the song “Kwakudensudoo” (which ends the film and can be heard in the trailer) was written as a tribute to Professor Allotey,  for the role he played in his life; and that she hadn’t known this while making the film. 

In the end the room was not jam-packed with people. There were three high school classes, several university students, a handful of key people in science in Ghana and people who helped Van der Laan during her travels two years ago, a representative of the Dutch embassy. Two students, says Van der Laan, expressed concern about this, walking up to her and telling her that this was typical for how much airplay, in spite of some new inputs, science still gets in the country.

Hopefully contributing to more and more attention to the issue, the film was also screened at the Center of Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) and at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS Ghana). For the film, a former group of AIMS students who graduated in 2014 had been interviewed, which is why Van der Laan wanted to bring the film back to the lab where it was shot. There was a new cohort now: again a mix of students from all over Africa, working hard towards a career in science.

Van der Laan gave away dvds of the film for people to organise own screenings; this way, she hopes, more and more people get inspired.

Want to stay informed about the MULTIVERSE series? Director Juul van der Laan will report on her blog and the website of the series. ZAM will also continually report on the progress of the project, so to keep informed, please sign up for the ZAM Chronicle here.