This film is held by the BFI (ID: 765607).


Cinemagazine chronicling the change and progress taking place in the Gold Coast.

"Consists of the following items:- Governor meets Chiefs at Dodowah: the first meeting of the Governor with the Joint Provincial Council of Chiefs at Dodowah. The New Warder: the story of the training of Warders at the Training Depot near Accra of H.M. Prisons. Accra Calling: an afternoon at Broadcasting House in Accra showing the technical and programme sides of the Accra Broadcasting Station." (Gold Coast Film Unit Catalogue, 1954-1955).



Gold Coast Film Review was a one-reel cinemagazine designed, according to the Colonial Office, ‘to record progress and news in the country both for theatrical and non-theatrical distribution’ (‘Colonial Office List’, 1951, 159). The film was an early production from the Gold Coast Film Unit. A report in West Africa Review at the end of 1952 claimed that ‘the unit has suspended doing newsreels and cinemagazines’ because it was ‘expensive’ and had ‘no lasting interest’, but issues of Gold Coast Review continued during 1954 and 1955 (West African Review, December 1952, 1316). The Gold Coast Film Unit’s catalogue explained in 1954 that the GCFU ‘operates in two sections, each independent of the other’. The ‘major unit’ was normally engaged on story film productions, while the second unit consisted of a cameraman and two assistants, and was an exterior unit. ‘It is principally concerned’, the catalogue explained, ‘with giving coverage to news and development stories in the Gold Coast, most of which are incorporated in the Gold Coast Review’ (‘Gold Coast Film Unit Catalogue’, 1954-1955).

This issue opens with coverage of ‘a colourful and impressive ceremony’ at Dodowah on 19 September as the Paramount Chiefs of the Gold Coast ‘had gathered to welcome’ the new Governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. The position and authority of the chiefs had been called into question increasingly over the previous few years. After the Accra riots of February and March 1948, the Watson Commission declared that there was ‘an intense suspicion that the Chiefs are being used by the Government as an instrument for the delay if not the suppression of the political aspirations of the people’. The report noted the ‘intense objection to Chiefs being elected to and sitting on legislative council’ and argued that ‘the place of a Chief in society was ornamental rather than useful’. The Colonial Office challenged and criticised the findings of the Commission. Indeed the committee responsible for drafting a new constitution, which included some senior Chiefs, argued that ‘the whole institution of Chieftaincy is so closely bound up with the life of our communities that its disappearance would spell disaster’ (Rathbone, 2000, 19-20).

Historian Richard Rathbone outlined the level of hostility and opposition now directed towards the chiefs. ‘The modern elite which had pioneered nationalism in the Gold Coast had’, he argued, ‘deeply resented the dominance of chiefs in the colonial councils of state and had done so for decades’. However, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), formed by Kwame Nkrumah in June 1949, extended this anti-chief rhetoric by talking in Marxist terms of ‘feudalism’ and the ‘oppression of the masses’ and by incorporating larger sections of society. Rathbone illustrates how by October 1949 The Accra Evening News – the newspaper of the CPP – was referring to the chiefs as ‘our imperialists’ who have ‘oppressed and suppressed us for a century’. Rathbone further argued that ‘chiefs were under increasing pressure by the end of 1949 and there was much which ensured that they knew it’ (Rathbone, 2000, 21-22).

The second item outlines the training programme in Accra for prospective prison warders. The Warders’ Training Depot was established in January 1947 and contained accommodation for 60 men of all ranks (Annual Report for the Gold Coast, 1948, 78). The Colonial Office records report that 71 new recruits were enlisted and trained during 1949 and 150 serving warders were also given instructional courses at the depot during the year (Annual Report for the Gold Coast, 1949, 45).

The film concludes with an item on Station ZOY, which began broadcasting in 1935 and which was used during the war primarily to promote the British war effort. Historians Steven J. Salm and Toyin Falola noted that ‘the British controlled the content of radio shows, especially towards the end of the war as calls for independence intensified’ and ensured that any songs that were deemed seditious were censored (Salm and Falola, 2002, 79). The Colonial Office explained that all programmes on Station ZOY were ‘drawn up by the Public Relations Department or under the Department’s supervision’ and were given in English and four vernaculars – Twi, Ewe, Ga, and Fante. Reports further noted that during 1949 the percentage of live broadcasts was increased and that of recorded programmes reduced, while ‘extra time was given to African entertainments and a start was made in the production of vernacular plays’ (Annual Report for the Gold Coast, 1949, 49). 



Gold Coast Review promised to outline the developments and progress within the Gold Coast and often focussed on modern technological advances – for example radio broadcasting – yet No. 3 begins with a most traditional scene, depicting a marching band and military procession as the Governor ‘warmly greets each chief according to custom’. The chiefs are in ‘traditional robes’ and presented at a ‘traditional durbar’ as the item promotes continued colonial rule. The commentator makes no reference to the nationalist criticisms of chiefly rule, the unrest of the last eighteen months or the findings of the Watson Commission, but he does, in urging continued support, respond indirectly to these criticisms. First, he emphasises the strong relationship, and close affiliation, between the chiefs and the colonial administration, as the chiefs gave ‘assurances of their loyal devotion to His Majesty, the King’. Secondly, the item indicates to its African audience that the colonial administration intends to introduce great changes, and is best qualified, with its administrative record, to do so. The chiefs, the commentator explains, ‘expressed the hope that His Excellency’s long record of colonial administration would enable him to be of real service to the people of the Gold Coast during the coming years when great constitutional and social changes are expected’. Thirdly, the item calls once more for unity and support for the chiefs, as the commentator stresses the ‘importance of co-operation between the chiefs and the people of the Gold Coast in the great tasks ahead’.

The second item, which shows the work at the recently established Warders’ Training Depot, serves to illustrate the development of African workers, and the initiatives introduced by the colonial administration – ‘the recruit has learnt many new things’ – while also encouraging further recruitment in this ‘ancient and honourable service’. The item shows all stages of the sixth month training process, and the transformation of the recruits is defined primarily by their appearance and improved discipline. The warders receive uniform, practise drilling and marching and physically develop to become ‘as smart a body of men as any in the country’. The training process, which ‘for some may appear like going to school’, may appear to closely mirror training programmes within Britain, but there are local distinctions. For example, the film emphasises that the recruit’s oath of allegiance is taken by ‘Mohammadans’ on the Koran, and for Pagans by the kissing of a blade.

The final item highlights the technological advances in the Gold Coast – ‘a highly geared organisation has swung into action to ensure the day’s programmes go out smoothly without a hitch’ – and shows the work of technicians working ‘under the watchful eye of the station engineer’. Furthermore, the film promotes once more the development of an African voice, as it shows both African announcers and musical performers, while noting the ‘vernacular languages’ in which the station is heard. Such a message endorses the claims of this newly formed film unit as well – as a medium by, and for, the African people – yet this was evidently not entirely accurate, as the colonial administration closely monitored and censored any songs or broadcasts that were deemed to endorse nationalist claims.

Tom Rice (March 2009)


Works Cited

Colonial Office, Annual Report on the Gold Coast, 1948 (London: H.M.S.O., 1948).

Colonial Office, Annual Report on the Gold Coast, 1949 (London: H.M.S.O., 1949).

Colonial Office, The Colonial Office List (London: H.M.S.O., 1951).

Gold Coast Film Unit, Gold Coast Film Unit Catalogue of Films 1954-1955 (1955).

Megroz, R.L., ‘Film Education and the African’, West African Review, December 1952, 1313 -1316.

Rathbone, Richard, Nkrumah and the Chiefs: the Politics of Chieftaincy in Ghana, 1951-60 (Athens: Ohio State University Press, 2000).

Salm, Steven J., and Toyin Falola, Culture and Customs of Ghana (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002). 



Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
9 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
312 ft

Production Credits

Production Company
Gold Coast Film Unit







Production Organisations