Review: ‘The Burial of Kojo’ dazzles with a sumptuous magical realist vision from Ghana

Implementing low-tech ingenuity to produce hypnotic imagery, multidisciplinary artist Samuel “Blitz” Bazawule’s feature directorial debut, “The Burial of Kojo,” flows as a collection of dazzlingly ethereal dreams that — like its characters — are trapped between the flawed world of the living and the promises of the afterlife.

Narrated in English by Ama K. Abebrese, this poetic Ghanaian vision sees Esi (played by Cynthia Dankwa) reflecting on her early childhood and the anecdotes, both subconscious and concrete, that her father, the explicitly condemned Kojo (Joseph Otsiman), used to share in relation to the schism with his brother — an unsettled squabble of supernatural proportions. Esi’s memories, in turn, are laced with their own bird-centric premonitions.

A car in flames by the beach, a rain of bright sparkles and a menacing humanoid figure embodying a crow — viewed in slow motion or upside down — are examples of Bazawule’s magical realist interpretation of his homeland. “Kojo” engages with African mysticism not through the lens of exoticism, but rather solemn appreciation. The spirit realm manifests in the form of practical effects and flesh-and-bone apparitions that are as cost-effective as they are sumptuously evocative.


Occasionally, the plot diverts from its otherworldly essence to address China’s industrial involvement in the country or to catch up with “Puebla, Mi Amor,” a mock telenovela fittingly dealing with feuding siblings. Through it all, the score composed by Bazawule himself maximizes the film’s eerie qualities and accentuates its understated performances, even while certain excerpts ring jarring.

Wonderfully atmospheric and culturally enriching, “The Burial of Kojo” truly qualifies as a spellbinding experience.


‘The Burial of Kojo’

In Twi and English with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Starts March 29, Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills