“Life is not in black and white” – Shirley Frimpong Manso

Movie Title: Grey Dawn

Director: Shirley Frimpong Manso

Stars: Bimbo Manuel, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi, Sika Osei, Marlon Mave

Producers: Ken Attoh, Shirley Frimpong Manso

Shirley Frimpong-Manso’s latest work is aforage into the grey areas that is life. It is never black and white, blue or green. It is always the amalgamation of colour and Grey Dawn is an experimentation of that nameless space between colours.

A high profile family hangs on the edge of dissolution. Minister of Finance, Harold (played by Bimbo Manuel) chooses the honour of his government work over his family, hoping to avoid scandal and consequences. But every decision has its repercussions and insert Jessica, Harold’s wife whose father was sacrificed over her husband’s honourable decision. A catastrophic love triangle develops, and Harold is faced with the tough decision again: Job or Family?

In storyteller fashion, Harold relates the events, allowing us into his mind as participant and the omniscient observer, as loving husband and a man at the crossroads of life and death. Bimbo Manuel plays Harold with expert subtlety and skill, matched perfectly with Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi who played Jessica. Funlola’s interpretation of Jessica avoided the stereotype of the Wronged-Woman-turned-Scarlet-Lady-turned-Femme-Fatale. She played Jessica as Mother, Jessica as lover, Jessica as Bruised daughter and wife with the ideal amount of gravitas, humour, anguish and vulnerability the role demanded. Sika Osei as Flora, Harold and Jessica’s lovely, artistic daughter was the cherry on top of the sumptuous vanilla ice cream.

And an applause is deserved for the newest Gabon actor on the block, Marlon Mave! Watching him was like watching a panther move with practiced refinement and grace in his natural space. We definitely have to see more of him!

All actors, for which Shirley and her team must be commended for selecting, pushed the barriers of the art for African actors.  A stellar performance by pure artists!

Speaking about the selection process, Shirley said, “We searched, and after searching, we had to audition and then you learn, that a lot of pretty faces can’t act so you have to look for the person who can give you what you were looking for. One of our biggest challenges also, was that in Ghana, you don’t have a lot of mature actors (older actors). I needed actors who had also been on the stage because these actors understand beyond the script and what’s in front of you.”

And of course, if you happen to be a Shirley connoisseur, you would be savvy to her style of empowering her female roles which was not missing in Grey Dawn. Funlola’s monologues were peppered with the magic stuff and in a monologue I would like to tentatively call “You told me too many No’s”, Shirley explores the reality of the woman situation: a woman has to sacrifice her personality, her career, her dreams and hopes for one man after the other in the order in which they generally appear in her life; first for father, then brother, then husband and in this movie, a lover as well.

“I have been accused of making my women strong,” she says with a half smile, “and I don’t apologize for it at all. I think there aren’t enough stories putting women out there. I didn’t want it to be an ordinary plot. I wanted people to get into her mind [Jessica] and realize that it’s more complicated than that. Yes, you can blame her for a lot of things but you will also learn her angle, that as women, we give up a lot. We give up our entire lives so that men can have theirs. But you have to be very tactful in doing this because you also do not want to alienate your male audience. You first and foremost have to find actors who can deliver those points.”

On why Grey Dawn is SUCH a Grey movie, Shirley speaks about wanting to break the trend of telling predictable stories which enforce societal stereotypes:

“I think over the years we have told too many black and white stories; either this person is bad or this person is good, but then we don’t really live our lives like that. Life is more complicated than that. So in this movie, we wanted to show that grey area that is life.”

Grey Dawn will be premiering at the Silverbird Cinemas (Accra Mall and Weija) on the 13th and 14th of February 2015. Grab your tickets at Koala, Airport Shell, or the Silverbird Cinemas! And check out Sparrowstation.com for more Shirley Frimpong Manso productions.

Let me leave you with a choice Shirley quote:

“I set out to do one thing. I wanted to tell progressive African stories, especially when it comes to Ghana. I wanted people to see Ghana from a totally different angle, to create a certain type of appreciation for where we live, what we eat, the kind of music we listen to and if we’re going to show the bad, there should be a story that goes with it. The other thing that was also on my heart was the Ghanaian woman. I’m very passionate about how our young girls are growing up. I’m hoping that by telling these kind of stories, we will shape the minds of some of these young women to understand that hard work pays and that sometimes, you really don’t need a man to get on. A lot of our young girls think about finishing school, getting married, and that’s it. But I’m saying you can have a life outside of all of that. If we begin to have our young women grow up with that mindset, we will have better offspring, because women give birth to both women and men. For me, these are the most important things and I’m hoping that my movies help to shape this mindset in our society” ~ Shirley Frimpong Manso.

Click to watch the trailer


By: Nana Akosua Hanson/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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