Y Leaderboard Series: Film genius Juliet Yaa Asantewa talks film & guides to originality


Juliet Yaa Asantewa Asante, one of Ghana’s finest creative directors and film producers, shares her journey through life on another impactful episode of the Y Leaderboard Series on Y107.9FM.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Film Authority of Ghana, hosted by Rev. Erskine, rolled out her life through childhood, life experiences and some guides to quality filming, among other things, to inspire the younger generation. Reliving her childhood memories, she reflects on how people identified her as a core Ashanti, bearing the prominent name, ‘Yaa Asantewa’.

For most Ghanaians, particularly Ashantis, the name ‘Yaa Asantewa’ brings back memories of the past. In the early days of Gold Coast, she was a brave and revered woman who inspired an entire ethnic group to reclaim victory over their oppressors in the early beginnings of Gold Coast (Ghana).

However, the Founding President of the Black Star International Film Institute, organiser of the Black Star International Film Festival, disclosed she is originally from Akwamu in the Eastern region.

As a young child, she only knew little about the name she carried as her parents moved to Liberia. “Growing up, I didn’t know all that about the legend Yaa Asantewa. Here was I a little girl in Liberia. Everywhere I moved people just knew me as Juliet because of the popular novel Romeo and Juliet.

“I didn’t know much about Yaa Asantewa but everyone in my family only called me Yaa. So it was in later years that I realised a great deal about her. That didn’t come from the impact of the name on me but actually came from appreciating my Africaness and saying to myself that I wish I had moved forward with my African name which really is my soul name because I was born on a Thursday. So that was what drove me to that realisation. I do appreciate the historical figure, especially coming to know that we were born on the same day. I mean that was interesting,” she shared.

She also advised parents to allow their children to chart their course with their guidance. For her, creating expectations only limits the potential of children.

Yaa Asantewa indicated that she has only been able to benefit from such grooming as her parents made room for her to make their own decisions. “I was lucky my parents, my dad especially, gave me the room to make my own decisions. My dad always told me he would support my choices – which he did. He didn’t create expectations for me.”

Although she desired her parents to be more demanding of her and her siblings, they would always choose to offer their guidance to their wards.

Sharing her experiences in film and acting, Yaa Asantewa described creatives as some of the most brilliant professionals in the country. However, they are barely recognised as such.

According to her, the acting profession is one of the most challenging fields in the world, with professionals having to lose themselves playing the roles of other characters. She urged professionals to adopt coping strategies, such as self-care practices and back-up plans to assist them in distinguishing themselves from the personas they play.

“Good actors are able to take care of themselves; that is do lots of self-care, a lot of grounding and you need lots of fall back routines that you can use. You have to go through the work of understanding how to separate that character from your true self. Sometimes, you have to play characters you don’t like, yet you’re supposed to play that character well,” she said.

Yaa Asantewa also admonished filmmakers to build rich and strong characters.

Sharing details of a recent filmmaking workshop she spoke at, the Founding President of the Black Star International Film Institute, stated: “Just a couple of days back, I did a workshop at the Black Star International Film Festival where I spoke to these young filmmakers on building characters that have depth”.

She asserts that contemporary filmmakers do not typically use rich characters, and depth cannot be attained if a director does not comprehend fundamental concepts like character business and character creation through non-dialogue.

She suggested that character development should follow the five-second rule.

Juliet Yaa Asantewa Asante further hinted that festivals are perfect grounds for content and inspiration for filmmakers. She advised filmmakers to make it a point to attend various festivals in Ghana. According to her, a lot of the things she’s currently pursuing, especially the major ones, all came out of festivals she attended.

Programmes Manager of YFM, Eddy Blay, expressed after the interview that the time with Yaa Asantewa Asante has been one of the most insightful sessions on the radio. “Every youth who aspires to be creative and listened to Yaa Asantewa today will definitely have a different approach to life as a Ghanaian. It is a great feeling to have accomplished personalities speak to the youth from the heart.”

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