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Ghana provides inspiration for Anthony Nti’s award-winning short film ‘Da Yie’

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Ghana provides inspiration for Anthony Nti’s award-winning short film ‘Da Yie’
Prince (Prince Agortey) in the short film “Da Yie.” PHOTO Pieter-Jan Claessens

Ghana is never far from director Anthony Nti’s mind and heart. His native land was used for a second time as the setting in the visually stunning and multiple-award-winning short film “Da Yie.” The film tells the story of two young children, Matilda and Prince, who embark on a life-changing trip with an alluring stranger known as “the Bogah,” played by Goua Grovogui.

Director Anthony Nti.

Director Anthony Nti. PHOTO: Esmoreit Lutters

Nti left his homeland at the age of 10 with his father, who emigrated to Belgium for work. Returning to Ghana offered him the opportunity to once again showcase the country’s beauty and people as well as all the places that he knew as a child. “It was such a great journey and such an amazing trip for me to rediscover places where I grew up and discover new stuff as a filmmaker,” says the director by phone from Belgium. “It was an exciting road trip, just like the film.”

The cast and crew of “Da Yie” is comprised mainly of Ghanaians and involved a lot of his family members, who worked behind the scenes building sets, scouting for locations and providing catering for the shoot. The two young leads in the thriller, Prince Agortey and Matilda Enchil, were discovered there and are both nonprofessional actors. Their characters were initially supposed to be two boys, but a professor at a primary school in Ghana suggested Matilda as one of the leads because she fit the characteristics that Nti and his co-writer and producer, Chingiz Karibekov, had written out as part of their casting process.

Matilda was the first person to audition, and Nti instantly fell in love with her. “She was amazing. She fit the character, and was supposed to be like me, but she was even better,” remarks the director. “Prince came in and he was also amazing. They were so intelligent and they understood that we were making a film. They were so involved in the art of filmmaking and they were so professional.” Naturally gifted as an actor, Enchil has since won six awards for her performance.

“Da Yie,” which translates to “good night” in Nti’s native tongue, is loosely based on two situations from the director’s youth in Ghana. The first involved being pressured by his friends to come out and play football (soccer) despite having to do chores before his aunt returned home, and suffering the repercussions of his actions. And the second was a time when he ended up with adults in a place where it “wasn’t kosher” for kids to be, recalls the director. There were drugs present, and he remembers an older guy who brought him there who told him that he should “run home.”

The Foreigner “Bogah” (Goua Robert Grovogui) and Prince (Prince Agortey) in “Da Yie.” PHOTO: Pieter-Jan Claessens

The idea to combine these two experiences into a film emerged in 2015. Nti and Karibekov, whom he met while studying film at the Royal Institute for Theatre, Cinema and Sound in Brussels, co-wrote the film and shot it in one month in Ghana in 2017. It took another two years for the film to be edited and finally completed in 2019. In 2020, the film premiered internationally at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

“Da Yie” has garnered four Oscar-qualifying Grand Prizes (Leuven Short Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand, Indy Short International Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival) among its 25 awards and 140 high-profile film festival selections. The film was also shortlisted for a 2021 Oscar in the category of Live Action Short Film.

Next up for Nti and Karibekov is their feature-length film debut, “Postcard,” about human trafficking. They’ve been working on it for the past couple of years, and it won second prize at the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab. It’s inspired by the book “On Black Sisters Street: A Novel” by Chika Unigwe and the film is being produced by Caviar, the production company also behind “Sound of Metal,” a 2021 Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.