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Paa Joe & the Lion

Benjamin Wigley
2016 | 72 minutes
Country of Production: United Kingdom
Countries Featured: United Kingdom, Ghana
NY Premiere | Director in Attendance 

A fisherman is buried in a fish-shaped tomb. A heavy drinker is buried in a beer bottle. For the Ga tribe of coastal Ghana, funerals are colorful and impressive affairs, with custom-made, stylish coffins for the departed. Ghana Master coffin craftsman Paa Joe and his son work together to keep this tradition alive, and a big commission gives them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win international recognition for their art.

Co-presented by the African Film Festival, Inc. and the British Consulate New York 

Activate: My Perspective

“ ‘Activate’ is a strange word to describe a response to a film—it suggests a reaction or a catalyst for a continuous change after experiencing one specific thing. I suppose as a filmmaker and an artist I am constantly looking to create something that changes you somehow or makes you grow a little: whether through knowledge, experience, or through a heightening of the spirit.

Paa Joe & the Lion had a fundamental effect on my life, it took five years to make, six trips to Ghana, around forty production days in the UK and somewhere in the region of three hundred and fifty hours of footage that I shot and edited. I learnt a massive amount over that time and had the opportunity to experiment hugely—which is why I feel like it is a success. For me, this film has activated a sense of belief in my own choices as a filmmaker, despite what the industry might say—especially when those choices are not traditional or conventional. I hope very much that the film will work as a catalyst for the audience to think about the differences in how we humans celebrate life, give them a sense of understanding and imagination around belief, and an insight into a beautiful story of hope that will make you laugh and cry.”

—  Benjamin Wigley | Director, Paa Joe & the Lion