At Bryn Mawr Film Institute on Tuesday night, Narberth film director and St. Joseph's University professor Deron Albright presented his first full-length film, The Destiny of Lesser Animals, which he called a "preemptive response" to the viral Kony 2012 campaign.
Following the film, Albright and Ghanian-born Yao Nunoo, the film's writer and star, answered questions from audience members about life in Ghana, marketing difficulties, and general response to the film.
The Destiny of Lesser Animals follows the story of Inspector Boniface Koomsin, a Ghanaian police detective, and his journey to recover a forged United States passport that will allow him reentry to America and the chance to recover his dreams. The entire film (with the exception of a few short New York flashbacks) was shot on location in Ghana and premiered in New York in April 2011.
Albright sees the film as a response—a "preemptive response," as the story was filmed in 2009—to the viral Kony 2012 campaign, which depicted the war criminal Joseph Kony.
"I hope [the film] will be a somewhat refreshing change in a film for Africa in terms of what you're expecting to see," Albright said. "There's obviously been a lot in the public sphere about Kony 2012 and this film in many ways is a response to that… not in its call for positive action on the continent, but in a 180-degree different approach to viewing life in Africa."
The Destiny of Lesser Animals isn't intended to provide easy answers, Albright said.
"It's a response to the idea that Africa is a problem to be solved and to the 'white savior industrial complex,'" he said.
While the film has been critically and commercially successful in Ghana, according to Nunoo, marketing the film has been a challenge because of its multi-faceted look at Ghana's problems, including the problem of brain drain.
That multidimensionality has actually been a downside commercially, Albright said: "One of the biggest issues for us right now is it’s a niche film that doesn't do what films in the niche are supposed to do."
"People on both sides of the Atlantic are coming with certain narratives about Africa," Albright said. "This film is really trying to move in the opposite direction and bring back some subjectivity. I think it's not what the industry is looking for. 'Where is that poverty? Where is that filth?'"
Albright is a tenured professor in the department of music, theater and film at St. Joseph's University. He taught classes at Ghana's National Film and Television Institute in 2008 and 2009 after being awarded a senior Fullbright scholarship.
"To a great extent, [the film is] marvelous because he's a local boy," Juliet Goodfriend, BMFI president, said of Albright. "When you see the work of someone who you can see in the neighborhood, it's even more exciting than having somebody in from Hollywood."