"The Fire Monkey" tells the story of Sulaimani, an armed robber, his wife Maimuna and their daughter Saadiya analysing the social conditions that make them what they are.
The story is set in Ghana where Sulaimani's and Maimuna's lives revolve round the Accra suburbs Shukura (Sukula) and Town Council Line in a tight net of deprivation, survival, revenge, self-justification and loss.
The absurdity of a law that stands in no relation with the population's living consitions and real circumstances of life and of an economy helplessly undermined by neo-colonial penetration makes Police Prosecutor Djefe Sulaimani's most reliable ally in preventing his conviction on a proven charge of armed robbery (as long as this safeguards his economic interests) and turns the "upright" and law-abiding Malam Haruna (who has a slightly hypocritic quality about him, though) into his comrade-in-arms in the face of the police-assisted brutal violation of Maimuna's family when their wooden shacks are being demolished by extended relatives in the course of a land feud.
The costs arising to the family in protecting their rights before a corrupted law court force Sulaimani to resort to intensified armed raids.
Sulaimani's love for his daughter and devotion to his family are contrasted with his brutal dealings with rivals and informers, which his survival as head of an armed gang requires, in a sequence in which his 3-years-old daughter accidentally enters the room at the moment when he is chopping off the finger of a traitor and gets traumatised by the scene she had to witness.
A robbery sequence in Dansoman Estate offers a perspective that belies Sulaimani's companion Ali's respectful and pleasant manners when showing a no less brutal, if only verbal, irreverence for a lady's old age expressed in meciless contempt and a vulgar language which are the product of an attitude neccessitated by his way of life.
The scene between Nii Nkpei(Akwei) and Nii Aryee shows the wisdom, status and social experience of these elders helpless in confrontation with a rapidly disintegrating society the conditions of which they are incapable of coping with.
The songs accompanied by cinema poetique sequences are celebrations of Africa's vital and irrepressible power of life embodied in Maimuna and committed, sometimes bitter comments on the hardships of the contemporary situation while proclaiming her greatness and ancient wisdom in a mode that portrays Islamic thought and African spirituality as expressed in the talking drum sequence as organically interrealated refections of a transcendental truth.
Sulaimani's death in the sequence in which he is shot by police forces during an armed raid which forms the frame of the film with all the ensuing scenes being retrospectives leaves Maimuna and Saadiya orphaned and is followed by the burning of the foundations of the family's newly developed house and their expulsion from their land. It thereby exposes Sulaimani's resorting to armed robberies as an inadequate response incapable of effecting any true change to their socially inferior status which is expressed in the words: "You be poor, you go lose. That is the end of your case." implying the neccessety of and organised thorough-going initiative with the potential of creating new and constructive social realities in a truly independent, reborn Africa.
Copyright with the author.
"A monkey leaping from branch to branch above the fire having turned into a predatory animal that hunts at night. This is what I see and I understand it. The gun is my master and I am the master of the gun."
Interior. Nii Aryee and Maimuna.
Nii Aryee: ...And I don't have it. Though I had to promise him, I don't know from where to take it.
Sulaimani: That's why we are armed robbers.
Ali: The law is the source of our crime.
Maimuna: But it's the law that makes it possible for you to escape.
Sulaimani: Because I carried out another operation so I could satisfy the law's hunger for money.
Excerpt from Nkrumah's speech at Ghana's attaining of independence: "...at long last..."
Radio Commentator's voice: "..from 1957 to 1968..."
Another commentator's voice (overlapping display): "Addo...Acheampong...Liman...Rawlings...Kuffuor..."
Third Commentator's voice (overlapping both displays): "Ananse..."
Sulaimani: The money has been provided.
Judge's voice: Period.
Cocoa Affairs. Nii Aryee, Sulaimani, Maimuna, Ali, Yaa Asantewa, various people from Sulaimani's gang and neighbours leaving the court room, smiling. They shake hands with Djefe [the police prosecutor] who leaves the court room with them. Smiling faces. Camera focus on a bundle of money Nii Aryee puts into Djefe's hands. Congratulations are shouted and jokes exchanged.