J.C. Abbey, Ghana’s Puppeteer

Steven Feld and Anyaa Arts Kollektif
2016 | 55 mins
Country Featured: Ghana
Country Produced: USA, Ghana
US Premiere
Sunday, October 16 | 5 pm | Program F14

Ghanaian polymath Joseph Commey Abbey began building puppets in 1963, and has since built a singular 50-year career of music-making, puppet-making, and entertainment. Known simply as J.C. Abbey, he has performed on the streets of Accra, in Ghanaian villages, and on international television, using his marionettes to chronicle the music of his homeland since its independence with ethnic songs, dances, and stories. Part historical documentary, part long-form music video, the film features 15 of Abbey’s incredible performances interwoven with a soundtrack that includes both archival material and new original compositions. Through storytelling and a blend of highlife, Afrojazz, and reggae, discover the cosmopolitan politics that intertwine ethnic, traditional, national, and global musical styles in Ghana today.

Co-presented by the African Film Festival New York

Re:Frame, My Perspective

“As an anthropologist and filmmaker I conceive and create the frame through conversation and collaboration. J.C. Abbey, Ghana’s Puppeteer was made this way over the course of three years by myself with the puppeteer J.C. Abbey, the musicians Nii Noi Nortey and Nii Otoo Annan, and the photographer Nii Yemo Nunu. It follows from more than ten years of collaborative work together on music and film projects in Ghana. As a group we simply take our time and work out every detail of theme, story, content, and construction as a group activity. Editing was also dialogic and included two rounds of feedback screenings in Ghana before completion. The result is a work of collective storytelling.”

—Steven Feld | Director, J.C. Abbey, Ghana’s Puppeteer