Close Analysis

Ganja and Hess

Directed by Bill Gunn, 1973

Total Length: 9 minutes and 10 seconds

Begins: 1:12:35

Ends: 1:21:45

Total number of shots: 34

Part I: Brief Description of the Film Sequence

The Sequence: This set of shots is the last in a climactic point of the narrative for the lead characters Ganja Meda and Dr. Hess Green. It is both their wedding night and the night in which Ganja dies then is reborn.

Up to this point in the film Ganja had come to Hess’s house looking for her missing husband George Meda who was in Hess’s employ. She is assertive and determined not to leave until she finds him or gets an answer as to his whereabouts. Though Ganja and Hess have a bumpy start as she mistakes him for an employee of the estate, they quickly hit it off but she is still focused on finding her husband. While Hess is out, Ganja discovers her husband’s body in Hess’s freezer. That evening she confronts Hess, who is not stirred by her discovery, but instead Ganja has a heart-to-heart talk with Hess, which results in the couple deciding to consummate their relationship in marriage and dispose of the body of her now dead husband. The wedding night (and the beginning of this close analysis) is the point in which the two talk about love and acceptance in light of what has just happened. This is a 34 shot sequence that goes between the realms of reality and an artistic dream sequence as Hess converts Ganja into what he has become, an addict.

This sequence in Ganja and Hess was extremely important to adding deep cultural and race perspective to a simple horror construct of a curse and blood lust. Ganja enters into this union thinking she is aware of her circumstances and prepared to deal with her new life, but quickly finds she is in a situation much deeper than she had anticipated.