Lydia Forsonh (left) plays daughter and Doris Sackitey plays mumIt took some six years for Shirley Frimpong-Manso to make her mark as a different kind of storyteller to take cinema in Ghana to another level.
Her graduation in Film Directing from the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) finally gave her the technical ability to launch a dream career in filmmaking, and after a successful TV series, and three feature films, including the box office smash, 'The Perfect Picture' earlier this year, Shirley is back with one more movie that is sure to become another blockbuster.
Her Sparrow Production's latest offing; A Sting in a Tale is an incredible piece of work. It is a simple story effectively told with intricate film-making techniques and a twist that will send the viewer on a high.
It stars, and has some sterling performances from Adjetey Annan (Pusher), with equally first-rate acting from Lydia Forson, who has certainly come into her own. Fluid, confident and focused, Lydia delivers a performance that is ripe and convincing.
There's also Majid Michel, another co-star, who proves his salt and jumps out of the jacket of the stereotypical roles he's used to. Together, these three are able to translate Shirley's tale into a yarn that keeps one guessing what's going to happen next.
Unlike Shirley's earlier films which centred on urban livelihoods, A Sting in a Tale goes into rural Ghana to tell its story.
A story of two unemployed graduates who embark on a journey to make it in a world where you need more than what you have to get what you want.
Kuuku (Annan) is overwhelmed with the urgency to succeed and frantically searches for a reward to his several years of school. Frustrated and constantly reminded of his failure by the presence of his girlfriend Frema (Forson) ; Kuuku will do anything to make the odds work in his favour.
Nii Aryee Michel, Kuuku's abstemious looking friend is more positive about the future until the rejection letters begin to mount and his landlord comes to town. Driven by the fear of poverty, these two friends go in search of a destiny that takes them to the most obscure places.
In a tale where the unexpected is always lurking in the shadows, from the natural to the supernatural, among all ploys, grief and struggles, nothing prepares you for the sting, in a rather bizarre ending.
A Sting in a Tale is a coming-of-age flick that tells a very modern Ghanaian story in a very modern way. It is one twisted adventure, as it's hype goes. But the twist is in Shirley, as writer, producer and director's own career growth, shifting from the urban romantic drama genre she's used to, to do a movie that discusses other pertinent social issues as unemployment and its effects on citizens, as well as touch on the supernatural theme.
So how did a little girl who grew up with her grandmother in Nkawkaw, and then Akropong before coming to live with her mother in Osu in Accra develop all that skill and talent to become a leader in modern story telling? “Hard work,”, Shirley agrees, and affirms that she got that streak from her grandmother, a teacher who was a strict disciplinarian.
“She had this hands-on, do-it-yourself attitude, and never had an idle moment, so to date, I find it very frustrating sitting back watching people do grudgingly, something I can do. I'll just learn to do those things I like, and I always knew I wanted to go into some form of story telling, either through film or on stage,” says Shirley, now in her thirties.
As a child, Shirley also loved literature and liked to write; short stories, poetry and the like and had a demonstrative attribute.
Shirley's mother, a hospital administrator currently living in London, England also encouraged her a great deal, allowing her to be as expressive as she could be. Shirley recalls how she allowed her to watch a lot of TV “because my mother appreciated how much I liked movies and how I liked to watch from beginning to end.” Today, she is very proud of her daughter of course.
A thorough person, Shirley has a fetish about efficiency, which gives her the tenacity to carry through to the end everything she sets her sights upon to do. “When I watch a movie, for instance, I like to finish it, no matter how terrible it is. I need to know how it ends,” and that helps Shirley learn to focus on getting her movies right. Everything has to be complete, to her satisfaction.
“I wrote over twenty drafts of 'Life and Living It'!(her first feature film)!” says Shirley. Why? “I was dissatisfied. I thought I could do better, I wanted to perfect it, but my colleagues thought otherwise, and encouraged me to go with the twentieth draft and seek to develop, to be perfect, rather through any future projects.
So is she satisfied with the eventual outcome of the final cut of her latest movie? “Yes.” Was her simple answer. “I have a great creative director and producer, Ken Attoh, who has done an impressive job in executing the story just the way that I wanted.”
A Sting in a Tale premieres on Friday November 6 at the Accra International Conference Centre. A special First Night screening comes off next Saturday, October 31 at the Silverbird Cinema.