This film is held by the BFI (ID: 264001) and Imperial War Museum (ID: COI 781).


Semi-fictionalised film showing the rle of the local council in Kojokrom, a town in the Western Region of the Gold Coast (Ghana).

The film opens with a schoolteacher announcing the council election results. Mr Addo, vehemently opposed to the council, complains and explains why he doesn't want to pay his rates. Mr Addo stubbornly avoids all of the facilities paid for by the local council – the repaired road, the hospital, the school. After a meeting of the councilors, a councilor visits Mr Addo to show him how the rates are spent. The rates pay for a new well in Kojokrom, which will avoid the women traveling to collect water. Mr Addo is now converted to the benefits of the council and speaks to other doubters about the value of a local council. The film concludes with the following speech by the Minister of Local Government and Housing. ''The government has given you the chance of taking an active part in the conduct of your local affairs. You have seen in this film how councilors are elected … and what improvements can be made. But the council cannot work properly, cannot hope to make your town cleaner and healthier unless it has money, and that means money from rates. There is one word of caution I must add: in this film you saw a town which has obtained sanitary services, schools, a clinic and a piped water supply from the council. This town was fortunate in that it was willing and able to pay its rates. Perhaps your town is neither willing nor able to do so now and hence your council is not in a position to spend so much money and provide these services immediately. I hope however you will let your councilors know what improvement you in your town most urgently want... it all depends on your cooperation and support”.



Progress in Kojokrom was directed by Sean Graham, the head of the Gold Coast Film Unit, and was widely exhibited throughout the Gold Coast as a pedagogical tool for promoting the recent changes in local government. A government report in 1954 explained that teams ‘of six or seven’ travelled around the Gold Coast in cinema vans to screen the film. The report explained that the film – ‘which members of the Trusteeship Council saw during the Council’s 14th session’ – would be shown in the evening, and the next morning ‘all the people of the village’ would be invited to a meeting, usually attended by the local councillor, at which the team would explain ‘using visual aids’ how they collect and spend the rates (Report on Togoland, 1954, 35). A further report in 1954 noted that ‘in the early part of the year, a vigorous and prolonged campaign was launched to educate the people in election registration and voting procedure. In this campaign, the Gold Coast Film Unit’s films “Salute to the Queen” and “Progress in Kojokrom” were widely shown’ (Report on the Gold Coast, 1954, 120).

Ghana Today, published by the information section of the Ghana Office in London, emphasised the widespread distribution of these films. ‘The work of the Department of Information Services has been ubiquitous’, it wrote, ‘and the most important campaigns which it has undertaken have been in respect of the general election of 1954 when over 1 1/2 million people saw the film on election procedure, and in support of the battle against swollen shoot’, a disease affecting crops (Ghana Today, 25 December 1957). An earlier report included a picture of a cinema van visiting a local area during preparations for the elections of 1954, while a commentator told the locals, ‘in the language of the areas they are visiting’, ‘how to register on electoral rolls and the procedure for voting’ (Gold Coast Today, 11 April 1956).

African Affairs also recognised Progress in Kojokrom’s role within local communities, when writing that, by October 1953, ‘265 out of the scheduled 284 councils had been established’ in the Gold Coast. It noted that a new bill reorganised the Police force, while another ‘introduces trial by jury into Ashanti, with women on jury service for the first time’. ‘All this work’, the journal explained, ‘is accompanied by propaganda, like a film, Progress at Kojokrom, and a pamphlet, Your Council and Your Progress’ (African Affairs, July 1954, 195).

Despite its widespread use as a tool for governance within the Gold Coast, the production of Progress in Kojokrom was a fraught affair. Sean Graham, in correspondence with noted British documentary maker Basil Wright, complained in July 1952 that ‘I am still stuck with Local Government, which has now come down to about 1 1/2 reels. To date I can’t wriggle out of it. The script has been revised several times, but the more we mess about with it, the worse it gets’ (Letter dated 28 July 1952, BCW 1/16/1). The script was a source of constant anxiety to Graham. Writing a few weeks later, he explained ‘I am going ahead with the picture. I have neither the enthusiasm nor time to re-write from scratch, and am more concerned to tighten the script, cut down in length, and make the film as brief as I can’. ‘It may be morally wrong to go ahead on a bad script’, he added, ‘but I have so much more to do, and so little time to do it in’ (Letter dated 18 August 1952, BCW 1/16/1). Graham’s criticisms of the scriptwriter Montgomery Tully were based primarily on Tully’s failure to relate to the local population; ‘he has little interest in this place, and has failed to make any friends among the Africans’. Graham sought to train and employ a local crew and travelled the country, meeting and socialising predominantly with local Africans. ‘I cannot push him [Tully] out into a village, as I want to, and tell him to make friends with the locals’, he wrote, ‘yet I cannot see what good it will do our scripts for Tully to swap confidences with the Europeans in the club’ (Letter dated 28 July 1952, BCW 1/16/1).

The completed film addressed changes in local government, which followed the success of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), led by Kwame Nkrumah, in the Gold Coast’s first general election in 1951. Richard Rathbone argued that the success of the CPP, which was ultimately committed to the ‘expulsion’ of the British, enabled it to ‘exercise something very close to full self-government in matters of local government’. Rathbone suggested that the British were relieved to hand over the ‘wretchedly complicated task of unravelling and controlling rural areas to Africans’ but the CPP sought ‘the radical re-ordering of Ghanaian society’ and this, according to Rathbone, ‘included the complete ending of chiefly authority’ (Rathbone, 2000, 54).

The new local government structure, approved by the assembly in December 1951, denied the chiefs direct access to their old sources of income, with the rents and taxes now collected by the councils. The new system of taxation was seemingly no more successful though, with Rathbone suggesting that ‘the local revenue was either not collected or so poorly collected that central government was required to subsidise local expenditure from central funds in increasing amounts’ (Rathbone, 2000, 55). Edward Asafu Adjaye, the Minister of Local Government, also hinted in 1952 that the change of power in local areas ‘had not been going very well, with an active spoils system and axes wielded vigorously’ (African Affairs, October 1952, 277).

This change of power was discussed in The Times in January 1952. ‘The object of the bill’, the paper wrote, ‘is to do away with the old system of indirect rule through district commissioners and predominantly traditional authorities, and to substitute a system of local government councils, democratically elected’. ‘A cadre of African executives would’, according to the paper, ‘act as agents for the minister of local government’ (The Times, 3 January 1952, 3). This minister, Edward Asafu Adjaye, who addresses the camera at the end of the film, was Minister of Local Government from 1951 to 1955 and would subsequently become the first High Commissioner to the United Kingdom after Ghana gained independence in 1957.

Progress in Kojokrom also played internationally. The Malayan Film Unit dubbed 35 and 16mm versions of the picture into Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, while the picture was also offered for exhibition in Britain by New Realm Distributors. Film User noted that while the film was intended ‘to accustom African audiences to the idea of civil responsibility’, the film ‘is well worth showing to groups interested in colonial development; it is also suitable for the upper forms at school’ (Film User, November 1955, 569). The British reviews emphasised ‘the simple humour to rub in the lesson’ (KW), ‘the simple propaganda message’ (To-Day’s Cinema), ‘the very direct and simple story telling technique’, and the ‘gauche charm’ of the performers (MFB).



Progress in Kojokrom, directed principally at local Africans, is a significant, and unjustly overlooked, example of the ways in which the Gold Coast Film Unit sought to use film to enact social change.

First, it is important to consider how the film seeks to address the African audiences. The film opens with a largely detached British commentary –‘clear commentary, well spoken’ according to Today’s Cinema – which speaks on behalf of the local Africans (Today’s Cinema, 24 August 1954, 6). Upon reading a draft of the script in 1952 (now held in BFI Special Collections), Basil Wright commented on the ‘rather pompous commentary’ at the film’s opening, and suggested that ‘if the visual incidents are sufficiently understood by the local audiences, would it be better to leave them to draw their own conclusions and only bring in your commentary at the point where Mr Addo rather takes over the film’ (Letter dated 9 September 1952, BCW 1/16/1). Wright’s comments, effectively recommending the removal of the British narrator and promoting visual storytelling, were partially followed, as the opening voiceover is reduced, but not entirely cut, from the film here. The British commentator states that the election results ‘didn’t mean very much to us’ and refers to ‘our town’. The camera at this point travels over the village – watching over the Africans – yet on finding the film’s protagonist, Mr Addo, the film seemingly adopts a more ‘authentic’ African voice. The commentary continues, but the action is now shown from Mr Addo’s point of view and largely through his voice. Most significantly, the film contains an entirely African cast, with characters speaking briefly in local dialects as well as in English. Furthermore, while the film was written and directed by Europeans, the discourses surrounding the film indicate Sean Graham’s desire to engage with an authentic African experience, while a still from the film’s production reveals an African crew (Ghana Today, 25 December 1957).

Screenings of the film may have been supported by a commentator, speaking in a local dialect, and by an education team using visual aids to reinforce the film’s message. This direct mode of address, clarifying, restating and personalising the messages outlined within the film, is also apparent here through the postscript, delivered by the Minister of Local Government. Dressed in a suit behind a desk, he talks to the camera directly, and explains that ‘I would like to have a word with you before you go away and think about this film’. This postscript seeks to contextualise the film – any development ‘depends on your cooperation and support' –and to direct the audience’s responses to the film. The inclusion of a postscript may appear to undervalue the viewer’s intelligence, but it also indicates the importance placed on the film as propaganda. The postscript also alludes to the many problems experienced in the development of local council. It notes a word of ‘caution’, suggesting that ‘perhaps your town is neither willing nor able to’ pay its rates.

British reviews, in seeking to maintain the popular notion that Africans and European audiences possessed different cognitive abilities and requirements from cinema, emphasised the film’s simplicity, and referred to the ‘gauche charm’ of the performers. Yet, while the film’s use of comedy seemingly embodies this belief about different cognitive abilities and about how film thus might be used for different audiences, the film’s narrative promotes and supports a modern largely self-governing Gold Coast. Mr Addo is depicted in traditional dress and with old-fashioned values, but the commentary lightly mocks these old ideas – his wife’s place was ‘indubitably, and beyond question, in the house, in the kitchen and with the children’ – and he is ultimately converted to the modern ways of the local council. This local council is represented as an educated, benevolent and sensitive group of Africans. The reviews, in resorting to racial stereotypes, overlook the modern representation of Africans and ultimately reveal a continuing attempt on the part of the British press to present the Africans as ‘crude’ and ‘primitive’, particularly as demands for independence grew stronger.

Tom Rice (April 2008)


Works Cited

Colonial Office, ‘Report by her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Administration of Togoland, 1954’ (London: H.M.S.O., 1954).

Colonial Office, ‘Report on the Gold Coast for the Year 1954’ (London: H.M.S.O., 1954).

‘Progress at Kojokrom’, Film User Vol. 9, no. 109, November 1955, 569.

‘The Impact of Information Services on the People of Ghana’, Ghana Today Vol.1, no. 22, 25 December 1957, 4-5.

Gold Coast Today, Vol. 1 no. 7, 11 April 1956.

‘Progress in Kojomkron’, Kinematograph Weekly, 2 September 1954.

‘Letter from Sean Graham to Basil Wright’, dated 28 July 1952, held at BFI Special Collections, BCW 1/16/1.

‘Letter from Sean Graham to Basil Wright’, dated 28 July 1952, held at BFI Special Collections, BCW 1/16/1.

‘Letter from Basil Wright to Sean Graham’, dated 9 September 1952, held at BFI Special Collections, BCW 1/16/1.

‘Progress in Kojomkron’, Monthly Film Bulletin Vol. 21 no. 249, October 1954, 151.

Rathbone, Richard, ‘Kwame Nkrumah and the Chiefs: The Fate of 'Natural Rulers' under Nationalist Governments’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th Series, Vol. 10, 2000, 45-63.

Swanzy, Henry, ‘Quarterly Notes’, African Affairs, Vol. 51, no. 205, October 1952, 267-305.

Swanzy, Henry, ‘Quarterly Notes’, African Affairs, Vol. 53 no. 212, July 1954, 181-234.

‘Local Government in Gold Coast: African Officers To Be Appointed’, The Times, 3 January 1952, 3.

‘Progress in Kojomkrom’, To-Day’s Cinema, 24 August 1954, 6.




Technical Data

Running Time:
23 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
835 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
[Colonial Office]
Graham, Sean
film editor
Elton, Veronica
music composer
Morrison, Ken
Elton, Ray
Graham, Sean
Production company
Gold Coast Film Unit
Tully, Montgomery
sound recordist
Hoyle, Peter





Production Organisations