“The Burial of Kojo” shows Esi as a child — played with an impressive quietude by Cynthia Dankwa — trying to live up to expectations. The action around her is enigmatic and fraught with mysticism. She is entrusted, by a blind old man, with the care of an ostensibly sacred white bird. But at night she dreams of a crow, or rather, a man in a crow costume, first seen upside-down.
These ancient symbolic elements are contrasted with a blurry telenovela (created especially for this film) that Esi sometimes watches idly with her mother, whose presence in the family is irregular.
Esi hasn’t yet started to grasp the significance of this netherworld when Kojo’s estranged brother Kwabena arrives, coaxing the family back to dry land.
The brothers look with disdain and fear at Chinese businessmen and laborers now exploiting the underground riches of their land. But that’s about the only thing that the brothers see eye-to-eye on.
Kwabena is the reason Kojo fled — on the day he was to marry the woman both of them loved, Kojo somehow caused an accident that killed her — but he wants to put the past behind them, and encourages Kojo to join him in a dangerous-sounding moneymaking scheme. Kwabena wants them to sneak into a gold mine that has been abandoned by a defunct mining company; Kojo balks at the risk, saying he only needs “something small” to get his family out of their current money woes.
As the two men gently debate this over the course of days, Esi becomes a fan of the fictional Mexican telenovela her grandmother watches: Puebla Mi Amor, which stars two brothers who clash violently over the woman they both love. Despite the heavy foreshadowing (not to mention the film’s title), the incident that dooms Kojo may shock viewers with its abrupt violence.
While Esi’s mother pursues reality-bound answers to her husband’s mysterious disappearance, the girl’s own quest is more in sync with a film where dreams have the weight of fact, however ambiguous their meanings.