Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity in video films : audience reception and appropriation in Ghana and the UK
Religion has become one of the central themes in the Ghanaian/Nigerian video film industry. The portrayal of religious elements which mirrors the religious dynamics of the audience has been attributed partly to the success and popularity of the films. The video films have also excited religious passions as well as criticisms. The heart of the debate, as the existing studies indicate, is how the various religious traditions (often, Christianity and Indigenous religions) are represented in the video films. Whereas some scholars opine that Christianity, especially Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches are frequently privileged, others contend that the religious delineation in the video films reflect experiential issues; the churches are portrayed in line with the niche, positive or otherwise, that they have created for themselves which is well known to producers and the consumers. This study examines the religious constructs in the Ghanaian/Nigerian video films phenomenon. The main focus is an investigation into audience reception of the video films, particularly among the members of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity in Ghana and the UK. It also explores the appropriation of the religious elements in general and Pentecostal-Charismatic narratives in selected video films. An ethnographic research method, comprising mainly of textual analysis of selected video films; participant observation and qualitative interviews, was used to draw comparative insights from a cross section of members of Action Chapel International and Word Miracle International churches in Accra and London. This thesis contributes to the on-going discourse on the Ghanaian/Nigerian video films and Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity partly popularized by Birgit Meyer and Afe Adogame. Hall’s Encoding/Decoding theoretical framework is used to explore the reception while the Uses and Gratifications theory is also adopted to examine the appropriation of the religious constructs in the Ghanaian/Nigerian video films. Notwithstanding the fluid representations of various religious traditions in Ghanaian/Nigerian video films, the findings show that the reception and uses of the religious narratives in the films by the audience comprise of a synthesis of full embrace on one hand and scepticism on the other. It was found that beyond entertainment, majority of the audience who were members of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity focus on the religious significance of the video films. Yet, most pastors and leaders in these churches were not comfortable recommending the video films as a good partner in the religious lives of their members. As this thesis focused on only Pentecostal-Charismatic audience, further research on members of other Christian denominations or religions regarding their self-representation in the video films is recommended. This will help to establish if the reception pattern of other religious groups is complex or linked directly with the portrayal trend of one’s religion.