Punctured Hope is a story that takes place nowadays in Ghana, West Africa. The movie tackles the practice of trokosi. According to this custom, if someone commits a crime, traditional leaders can order a young girl from that family to be sent to the shrine as a form of atonement. A fetish priest and his disciples then genitally mutilate and sexually abuse the young girls. The film was shot in a village of Ghana with a fully Ghanaian crew. Bruno Pischiutta and Daria Trifu, respectively director and producer of the movie, talked about their film and their experience shooting it.
Nicolas Roux: Could you tell us more about the film?
Daria Trifu: Punctured Hope is a feature film that is inspired by this true story of slavery. The leading actress in the movie is actually in real life the person who inspired the movie. When we did the casting, the director noticed this young girl in the middle of the crowd and he said that he would like to meet her. When we met her, we found out she was the one who inspired the entire movie so she plays herself. It is a story about trokosi, which means the wife of gods. It is the biggest form of slavery against women that exists today in the world. It involves genital mutilation, sex abuse and it’s something that is going on as we speak in West Africa.
Nicolas: Where did the idea come from?
Bruno Pischiutta: We were preparing a film about the subject of how virginity is lost in our times. A pastor from Ghana wrote to us saying: “you don’t know what’s going on here. I wrote a script and I would like to make a movie.” At the beginning, we were very sceptical. Daria and I went to Ghana and we personally visited the shrines at our own risk. We saw a fifteen-year-old girl with a kid, we saw all kinds of terrible things. After we decided to bring that to the world. The script of the pastor was very good because it was based on the story of this girl but it was not written in an acceptable style.
Nicolas: Everything was shot in Ghana. The crew was Ghanaian. Did you face any problem there whilst filming?
Bruno: No, because we kept the subject of the film secret. Very few people knew what the film was about because it could have put our crew and us physically in danger. When the film was completed, we did a press conference and said everything. Afterwards the government of Ghana put what we said at the press conference on their website. Then they sent police to the shrines but the phenomenon is so big it will take generations to resolve. We hope that influential people in America such as Michelle Obama can push international organisations to influence local governments. We want to let the world know the terrifying numbers at which this phenomenon occurs. Right now we are talking about 25,000 slaves in the shrines and 130,000,000 women genetically mutilated in the world.
Nicolas: What I also found terrifying was the negative influence and power that the fetishist priest has on the whole community. Did you find black magic common while you were there?
Bruno: Absolutely. Just to give up an example. Our soundman lost his camera one night. Some of the crew thought somebody stole it and they felt very offended. They wanted to bring a part of the camera to the shrine, in front of the black magic because that is how it is done. People who go to university also do it. My assistant and I were talking about black magic. He said: “there are some things about America that I don’t understand and I don’t believe. And there are some things about Africa that you don’t understand and you don’t believe.” That is just a different point of view.
Nicolas: In the West, many have a negative image of Africa. But the film also shows a beautiful side of this part of the continent. Was it important for you to give a different angle?
Bruno: We wanted to show the beauty of the village and the sophistication of the people. It’s not all negative. The image is beautiful Africa, beautiful people, and beautiful places with some problems and problems are everywhere.
Daria: From the experience of living there for a couple of months, with the crew and the villagers, we saw so much happiness in the children, their smiles and their eyes. It was incredible.
Bruno: And another thing, every adult is in charge of parenting the children of the village. So if a child does something bad, any adult will tell them not to do that. The sense of community is big. These children have nothing but I’ve never seen so much smiling. They’re incredibly intelligent and they have a huge desire to learn.
Daria: This is also something we wanted in the film from the beginning. Our company makes non-violent films that are usually based on social issues of our time. Although the subject is so difficult, there is no graphic scenes, no coarse language. The film is for children, more sophisticated adults, for students, everyone really. And it is important because it is not only about the leading character who is victim of trokosi, it’s also about the village. The life in the village is the second leading character.
Nicolas: An interesting point at the end is when the chief of the village says that the government of Ghana cannot do anything about the practice even though it has been outlawed. How difficult do you thing it would be to stop this practice?
Bruno: Yes, the government can decide something but then the local villages can have their own laws. In the village the law is done by the king of the village and a committee of four or five people. And they say: “who are you to say that something that has worked for our grandfathers for hundreds of years is not good.” The fear that the fetish priest put on people is the moral agent against criminality. If people think they can rob, rape, kill and the gods will not punish them then there can be a very different scenario. That is what the traditionalist people say. The debate is open. That is what we tried to show in the film and then viewers will make their own mind.
A few selected scenes from the film: