Back in 2011 I got an email from Ben that was, as is his way, very direct and to the point. It just said something along the lines of “Here’s a trailer I’ve put together. Do you want to help produce it and make it into a feature?” I watched the trailer and as soon as I heard Paa Joe’s laugh and saw the images of the different coffins there was absolutely no question, of course I was going to help to produce it!
And so the whirlwind began - applications for funding, Documentary Campus Masterschool, pitch workshops, Doc/Fest good times, and of course, going to Ghana. I’ve only been over once, to collect Paa Joe and Jacob before their trip to the UK, and it was incredible.
I was supposed to go another time, around New Year ‘13, but, the powers that be had other ideas. Just a week or so before Christmas 2012, on the day Ben and I were due to go to London and meet James Hunt from Sky Arts, I fell down the stairs and broke my foot. I was absolutely gutted as it meant I wasn’t allowed to fly with a cast on my foot and was strongly advised not to make the trip. I couldn’t believe it.
The reason for the January trip was to film Paa Joe building his mother’s coffin, who had died earlier that year, and then her funeral. I so wanted to be a part of it. At the time I was struggling with my own grief, as my Dad died just a week before I tripped down the stairs, and I thought that going to Ghana to visit Paa Joe and be with his family during their time of grief might help me in my grieving process. But alas, it wasn’t to be.
When Ben came back from the trip and showed me the footage he’d shot, I found it incredibly powerful. I was still going through the motions of what had happened and watching Paa Joe, this big, strong character, organise funeral proceedings, build his mother’s coffin, and be surrounded by his family was somewhat difficult to watch but very beautiful too. As I watched, memories of my father that had been locked away were released back into my consciousness and I felt as though I could see this in Paa Joe - as I watched him putting the finishing touches to the stunning white coffin, I imagined that memories of his childhood and his mother were being unlocked too.
Paa Joe & The Lion follows a man trying to save his business and legacy, but it also shows a man, and a family, dealing with emotions and difficulties that each and every one of us have to too. It is poignant, moving yet also celebratory and has had a deep impact on my life. I treasure this film, and Paa Joe and Jacob, very much and am looking forward to the next stage of the journey.
Here’s just one of the many reasons people are supporting Paa Joe & The Lion, and we could couldn’t be happier about it!
I have such respect for the people who make their living through art and creativity. I have collected some of the most beautiful work on my visits. I have seen fantasy coffins and admired the work that went into them. I also am a photographer and have done some film work, so when I saw this project it was a “marriage made in heaven” art and a documentary.
I want to help preserve this craft and supporting this project brings awareness to the creativity of the great carpenters of Ghana and their gift of teaching others to carry on with this tradition.
Paa Joe’s craft needs to continue as an integral part of the local funeral culture and as a craft of creative art. I feel compelled to help you make this happen. Preservation through documentary awareness. Great project. When this is completed, and I know it will happen, I will be making a trip to England to hopefully meet you and the team and see the outcome of my investment.
Best wishes to you!