By Al-Amin Ciroma
Published in LEADERSHIP on April 11, 2009
The film industry in northern Nigeria was dormant for quite some time, until it recently bounced back with the massive production of Hausa home videos, principally. Largely based in the Kano-Kaduna-Jos axis, the industry, known as Kannywood, fondly fashioned after the legendary Hollywood and by extension, Nollywood, has been experiencing a couple of teething problems since inception. First and foremost, like other local film industries, Kannywood lacks creativity and originality, as it merely churns out renditions of popular Hindi movies, with the themes largely revolving around love, lust and betrayal. Secondly, as a growing industry, there is the big problem of unprofessionalism; as it has become an all comers' affair. This has resulted in poor quality productions and bad scripting. Other challenges faced by the industry include: poor financial base, lack of technical know-how in terms of production, lack of corporate support, and the wrong notion that actors and actresses are men and women of easy virtue.
A distinctive feature of the Hausa home video is its musical component. It is very difficult to watch a Hausa home video without one or two musical interlude. While it has served a purpose or achieved an objective, to some people, this music breaks was moral aberrations.
Movie production in northern Nigeria is solely governed by an act of moral eccentricity. A lot of people and groups feel that the movies are out to counter the moral values of the northern communities. This issue has generated a lot of controversy and debate, with people expressing divergent opinions. A director at the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies in Kano, Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu, in an interview with the media, said, "It got to a stage where unless a Hausa film has girls in tight dresses, singing and dancing suggestively, it will not sell, and filmmakers have been defending this by insisting that they are in the business to make money, not art. One of them bluntly told us, 'to hell with Hausa culture; I am a filmmaker and I want to make money, if you people want a cultural film, do it with your own money'. This marketing mantra led to more songs and dances with girls dressed in tight clothes, shaking their body suggestively, even when the story does not warrant a dance."
This clearly indicates that culture and its attendant belief systems have contributed in no small measure in shaping our moral paradigm. However, what is needful to be seen is whether this scenario of moral anomalies influencing cultural roles has been wholly transmitted into the movies.
For instance, Ashiru Nagoma's movie, Tutar So, has the razzmatazz and glitz of a typical Kannywood movie but showcases not only the sorry state of Kannywood, but also a clear ignorance in film production.
In the said movie, the producer/director composed a musical theme, with the real names of the performing artistes in the film. The movie is just a perfect example of a badly produced movie. Just after the debut of Tutar So, many of the producers are now trying to imitate what they feel is an innovation by the so-called 'intelligent' director.
The point here is the imperativeness of the message. What the moviemaker wants his audience to feel and learn through the production should be dynamically addressed. We are in the jet age, where creativity and originality should be the watchword. With this trend in the Hausa movie industry, one would not cease to wonder if there would ever be a transformation in Kannywood. A typical producer will tell whoever cares to listen that he is contented with what he is doing now, and that there is no going back. Their priority is money, irrespective of the quality of the film they churn out.
Most of the people who expressed their opinion about Kannywood suggested that the filmmakers should at least employ a little sense of maturity, at least to deal with one aspect that will perk up the society if not contribute to the moral upbringing of the northern people. Also, a considerable number of those who expressed their views also urged the government and wealthy individuals to come to the rescue of the budding industry. According to them, "When movies are loaded with negative messages - armed robbery as a means of livelihood, borrowed cultural exhibition (music and dancing), violence, witchcraft, gross disobedience to parents, suggestive sex, corruption, without enough emphasis being placed on godly virtues, then your guess is good as mine regarding the effect of such messages on the discerning mind."
Having noted that the advent of the home videos in the north was widely accepted for reasons like easy access, low cost, affordability, as well as being a substitute for foreign films, the film makers should, as a matter of urgency, employ at least a little bit of intelligence in their business. They should be thoroughly informed and try to match their counterparts elsewhere in the world, bearing in mind that they are producing for a learned audience.