Directors Kelly Daniela Norris and TW Pittman are not the sort of filmmakers who make things easy on themselves. Having already shot one film clandestinely in Cuba (2013’s Austin Film Festival award-winner Sombras de Azul, which Norris directed and Pittman produced), the two women hit upon the idea of making their collaborative feature debut in a rural Ghanaian village without electricity, with dialogue almost entirely in a language without written form. Their decisions could not have paid off better, as the result is quite simply a revelation in which every aspect shines.
In Nakom, young medical student Iddrisu (Jacob Ayanaba) is obliged to put his life and schooling in bustling Kumasi on hold after his wayward farmer father dies in a motorcycle accident. He travels to his rural hometown, Nakom, where he reluctantly finds himself increasingly taking over his father’s role as he sets right his various wrongs. Despite the pull of his urban lifestyle and nascent medical career (which he hopes will allow him to leave Ghana entirely), he becomes increasingly essential to his family and to Nakom more widely.
The resulting story arc is simultaneously surprising and inevitable as it heads towards its powerful conclusion. Whilst far from ostentatious, it is nevertheless shot through with telling moments possessed of utter truthfulness – simple on the surface, yet they stick in the memory. In one instance, Iddrisu takes his younger cousin to hospital, where a young nursing assistant clumsily attempts to take a blood sample. Looking at her arm, he declares that this cannot be done, leading Iddrisu to carefully guide him to a nearby vein. His cousin declares that Iddrisu knows everything, to which he humbly responds “No, I just know more than that boy.”
But Ayanaba is only the most prominent member of a terrific ensemble cast of non-professional actors, all of whom convey an unwavering sense of realism throughout. As explained by the directors, their verisimilitude owed much to the fact that the nature of the Kusaal language required each cast member to learn their lines orally from co-screenwriter and casting director Isaac Adakudugu, through which process they crafted the dialogue to suit individual personalities and speech patterns. Add to this an incisive and unobtrusive directing style focused squarely on characterisation, and a remarkable score by Senegalese musician Daby Balde, and Nakom leaves one impatient to follow wherever Norris and Pittman’s collaborations take them next.
Marc David Jacobs
Nakom does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Nakom here: