The movie “Borga” tells the story of a Ghanaian migrant who dreams of making it big. However, the reality of his new life in Germany had shattered those goals and dreams.
Following the success of “Queen Sono,” which became the first African production to be screened on Netflix in 2020, feature films that show contemporary African culture and experiences are also cementing their name internationally. Among them is the German-Ghanaian migrant drama “Borga,” which recently won numerous awards at the 42nd Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival, including Best Feature Film and Socially Relevant Film.
The film’s title is taken from the Ghanaian word “Borga,” which describes people who have moved abroad to make money and work with the implied expectation of success.
Kojo, played by German-Ghanaian actor Eugene Boateng, is one such migrant, a Ghanaian who moves to the German city of Mannheim with the hope of making his dream come true and make money. But “Borga” sheds light on the gap between dream and reality. Kojo manages to only scrape through in Germany by getting involved in an illegal business as it is his only chance to make a living and be seen as a “Borga” success back in Ghana.
“Borga” follows on from another film reflecting on the African immigrant experience, the 2020 Berlinale competition entry Berlin Alexanderplatz, which follows the struggles of a refugee from Guinea-Bissau in Germany. Both movies explore the integrated themes of globalization, social inequality, and migration in the 21st century.
Empowerment Rather Than Victimhood
Opening in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, “Borga” employs a documentary-type lens to portray Kojo’s early struggle against adversity. Viewers see the young protagonist scavenging for scrap metal on a garbage dump while growing up in Agbogbloshie, one of Accra’s poorest suburbs.
Although the despair comes with hope, dreams of escape from destitution ultimately drive Kojo away from his home.
Kojo’s quest to seek riches abroad and receive recognition from his family is the core of the film, says German director York-Fabian Raabe, whose debut feature also won the Audience Award at the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival.
Raabe stresses that the movie is not intended to be yet another example of victim porn but instead focuses on empowerment.
Movie Made for Ghana
Raabe spent five years writing the screenplay for his first foray into fictional feature filmmaking. To ensure that there is authenticity, Ghanaian consultants and creatives worked with Raabe from the beginning of the project.
The actors speak their native language, mainly Twi, throughout a subtitled movie and contain only a few spoken German moments.
Raabe said, “The unique thing about an actor slipping into his own tongue is that he gets to connect with what he is playing and what he is doing differently. The language itself is the key to more intimacy. The film is not only made for the Western world. It is very, very clearly made for Ghana.”
Working with renowned Ghanaian actors like Adjetey Anang, who plays Kojo’s father, was also a rewarding experience for lead actor Eugene Boateng.
“This was such a special and emotional project for the Ghanaians,” Boateng said. “They all felt so connected to the story and felt like it was their own story too.”