ERNEST KOFI ABBEYQUAYE, a pioneer, legend, and veteran film-maker turns 80years this year and Ghana can not wait to celebrate him for the knowledge he has passed on to generations and his enormous impact in the film industry.
Spear-heading the celebration of Mr. Ernest Kofi Abbeyquaye is the Ghana Academy of Film and Television Arts(GAFTA) with and upcoming virtual seminar via Zoom with the ID code: 819 0976 1095 and Passcode: 831568 dubbed “Celebrating a Legend Ernest Kofi Abbeyquaye” slated to come off on Saturday 31st October 2020 at exactly 2:00GMT. To speak at the event are top-notched film industry players such as Yaw Frimpong Boakye(Screenwriter/ Film Director), Juliet Yaa Asantewaa Asante(Executive Secretary-National Film Authority), Mrs. Veronica Nai(Writer/Director), and hosting the event is the evergreen Aseye Tamakloe(Lecturer/Founder-Ndiva Women’s Film Festival).
ERNEST KOFI ABBEYQUAYE (ACTOR/PRODUCER/ WRITER/ DIRECTOR)
Ernest Abbeyquaye’s journey through the theatre, film, and television comes from a natural gift for storytelling. The storyteller or reader in class, Ernest enrolled as a student in the Arts Council Drama School’s pioneer class in 1960. In 1961, he became a member of the Ghana Studio Players and completed a Certificate Course run by the School of Music and Drama at the University of Ghana. From 1963 to 1966, Ernest enrolled and graduated from the University of Ghana, School of Performing Arts with a major in Drama and Theatre Arts. During this period, circa 1960 to 1966, he was active in stage productions. Also, he featured regularly in radio and television drama series such as “Time Machine,” “Radio Theatre,” and “Avenue A” produced by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.
After his undergraduate studies, Mr. Abbeyquaye taught English and English literature at Aggrey Memorial High School in Cape Coast, Ghana, from 1966 to 1970. He got his break in acting as a cast member in two of Ghana’s early feature films: “Hamile” (an adaptation of Hamlet) and “No Tears for Ananse” (the first feature film written and directed by a Ghanaian). In 1970, he joined the Ghana Films Industry Corporation (GFIC). He won a British Council scholarship to undertake a three-year postgraduate professional training in film directing from 1972 to 1975 at the prestigious National Film and Television School (NFTS) at Beaconsfield, Bucks, UK, where he earned a MA in Directing Fiction.
Upon returning to Ghana, Ernest rejoined GFIC as a Writer and Assistant Film Director. In 1978, he joined on secondment, the newly founded National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), as one of its founding tutors.
While at NAFTI, he became the Head of Studies and Deputy Director. Ernest returned to GFIC after his stint with NAFTI, where he worked, filmed, and traveled extensively throughout Ghana and abroad. Some of these countries include the US, the UK, Germany, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Lebanon, Israel, and Eritrea. His work also enabled him to visit some of the world’s dangerous and troubled spots, interviewing heads of states, military leaders, and many influential opinion leaders.
One of Ernest’s significant contributions to film in Ghana has been to attract and promote co-productions between local and foreign production companies. Examples of such productions include the “Dying of the Light” (1992) -Yorkshire TV and “Deadly Voyage” (1996), an HBO-BBC (TV) production. These big-budget film productions are still a rarity in Ghana thirty years later. Interestingly, Mr. Abbeyquaye has, over the years, also collaborated with classmates on various film projects. For example, as Assistant Director on ‘’Feeding the Future’’ a documentary on the activities of Sasakawa Global 2000, directed by Dr. Tony Freeth, and “The Culture of Silence’ a documentary film on non-formal Education in Ghana commissioned by the Overseas Development Aid Agency of Great Britain and directed by Sara Jolly.
Mr. Abbeyquaye has written and directed films for foreign production houses. For example, he was also the Writer and Director for “Drums and Voices” (1980), a documentary produced by Chris Burgman (WDR) Cologne. In 1998, Ernest Abbeyquaye and Cheick Oumar Sissoko were selected from Africa to work on the pilot for “Hopes on The Horizon,” an international documentary produced by Blackside Inc. of Boston Massachusetts and funded by the Ford Foundation.
Locally, Ernest Kofi Abbeyquaye has also written and directed several features and documentaries. In the 1980s and the 1990s, he wrote and or directed successful feature and documentaries films like “Ghana Reborn,” “Confessions,” and “Escape to Love.” He also did the screenplay and directed “A Mother’s Revenge” and “The Other Side of the Rich.” Retirement has not slowed Ernest down. In 2011, Ernest came back from a break in film making to star in the much-acclaimed Ghanaian movie “Death after Birth” alongside some of Ghana’s and Africa’s top actors. In 2012, he directed a United Kingdom Lottery funded documentary “Out of Africa: the contribution of African football players to the professional game in the UK.”
In 2015, he wrote and directed “Chronicles of Odumkrom: The Headmaster,” which is one of his most significant production. This movie was produced by Trumpet Africa Productions, a company owned by his sons Tetteh Abbeyquaye and now-deceased Kojo Pobi Abbeyquaye. In that same year, he starred as the paramount chief in the feature drama “Beast of No Nation,” directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. In 2018, he co-produced the film “Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life and Times of Mr. Ulric Cross,” directed by Frances-Anne Solomon.
Besides working on films, Ernest has served on several national committees and boards; and helped establish several associations involved in the promotion of the arts in Ghana, recently serving on the board of NAFTI. As a pioneering giant, Ernest has also taught and mentored many of Ghana’s top actors, media personalities, and film/TV professionals. Mr. Abbeyquaye has received several awards and honors throughout his career, especially for his contributions to film and the development of the arts in Ghana. His awards include an ECRAG Award and the “Living Legend Award” for his contributions to Film in Ghana. In 2018, he also received the Television and Film Pioneer Award at the Ghana UK Based Achievement Awards(GUBA) Awards held in the UK.
Ernest was married for over forty years to the late Benedicta Abbeyquaye. Together, they had five children, of which one is deceased and is blessed with several grandchildren. In his eighties, Ernest continues to work in film by writing and consulting with young professionals in the field.
With veterans such as David Dontoh and many others passing through hands of Mr. Ernest Kofi Abbeyquaye, it is my wish to meet him personally one day and tap into the knowledge of the living legend of Ghana Film Industry, long life we pray for God Almighty to bless him with on his 80th birthday.