‘Trokosi’ film showcases value of collaboration

Documentary about centuries-old practice in Ghana highlights the value of collaborative storytelling

Brigitte Sossou Perenyi filmed for ‘My Stolen Childhood’.

How did this all begin?

Brigitte: Reverend Walter from International Needs Ghana connected Angela and I in 2011. I had just moved back to Ghana in mid-2011, so we started having a conversation back and forth. It was basically how Angela approached me, she wanted to establish our relationship — nothing was forceful, nothing was — “I’m a journalist I just want to write about your story” kind of thing.

Brigitte Sossou Perenyi

Dealing with disagreements, planning and collaborative journalism

Paul: We try to work with communities to share their own experience in their own words and to lead their own storytelling. The distinction is that Brigitte is the narrator and she brought that to the table, so she was able to connect to the people she interviewed and spoke with, because of her personal relationship. She was able to narrate the story in her own words, which makes it more authentic and powerful to the audience because you’re hearing from someone who is directly being affected.

What we did is, before we agreed to go into this project together, we spoke a lot about why we want to do the project and how we wanted to do it. — Paul

We both agreed that we didn’t want to make it just another story about an African practice — we wanted to explore in more depths. And before starting, we did quite a bit of work with Brigitte on brainstorming the story. There were a lot of post-its involved.

Brigitte and Zoe Jewell, one of the film crew members.


Paul: The big step for us, which we haven’t always done on previous projects, was to make the brave decision to involve Brigitte in the pitching and the editing process. Many people like to get back to the edit and have full freedom to do what they want. Anyone who has made a film knows that when the rubber really hits the road is in the edit.

I want people to find hope — Brigitte

I don’t want people to pity me, I want them to see strength in this story.

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Code For Africa

Africa's largest civic technology and data journalism initiative