London — Broadcasters and streamers – particularly international streamers – are now looking at the thriller genre in Africa for new acquisitions and licensing deals. Russell Southwood spoke to Benjamin Cowley, CEO, Gravel Road about an unusual Ghanaian film from the genre called Gold Coast Lounge.
Gold Coast Lounge is being represented by Gravel Road Distribution Group globally and is the sixth feature film for its director Pascal Aka. The director also acts in the film. Set in the nightlife of post-independent Ghana, a crime family must unite and clean up their act before the government shuts down their lucrative lounge. After their leader is mysteriously poisoned, it is up to Daniel (Alphonse Menyo) – the eldest – to take power. While struggling to implement his own ideas about how things should be run, Daniel has to overcome power struggles, love-triangles, tribalism and a murder investigation.
Like many films, Gold Coast Lounge was hit by the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2019: "We tried to release it just as the pandemic hit but it has only had a limited theatrical release in Ghana." Gravel Road has sold the North American rights to streamer Topic, has sold it to 15 airlines where it was well received and self-distributed it on Amazon.
Topic is available to US and Canadian audiences on topic.com, AppleTV & iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV. It has done 12 deals with Gravel Road as it wants to become more genre based with thrillers and crime drama. Other films it bought included Call Me Thief (Noem My Skollie) which was an Oscar submission in 2016.
As an homage to the noir genre, Gold Coast Lounge was made in black and white: "It’s not been easy to sell to the commercial streamers. For example, Netflix don’t think black and white films work well. We’re already talking about character spin-offs for future productions and those will definitely be made in color. We’re talking to Amazon and we’d like to do a licensing deal with them."
Gravel Road has held off signing Free-To-Air broadcast deals, wanting to maximize Pay TV incomes before it gets wider circulation: "There are only a handful of the main Pay TV companies in Africa and those willing to pay offers that reflect the budget of the film will be accepted. Or we’ll wait for a bigger streamer or AVOD." The budget for the film was US$150,000 and was raised from […]