NIGERIAN MOVIES ARE THE NOISIEST IN THE WORLD –– KASIMU YERO
Kasimu Yero is a prolific actor in the make-belief world. A veteran who has seen virtually every aspect of the industry, the Zaria, Kaduna State-born actor, director and administrator played the role of Uncle Gaga in the TV sitcom, Cockcrow at Dawn, aired on NTA network in the 1980s and has acted in several other films that were popular. In this interview with our Kano State correspondent, SALIHU OTHMAN ISAH, on the set of the Bakan Dabo, the epic Hausa language biopic on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, and his emirate recently, Yero reveals his candid feelings on the Nigerian movie industry and how he got his role in the epic flick, amongst others revelations. Excerpts:
My interest in Bakan DaboWell, actually a friend of mine just telephoned me and told me that there was going to be a film that would be shot here in Kano, that I should be here. I said what is it all about? He said when you come, you will know. But, I am sure since you know me I will not ask you to come for a bad thing. I said okay, I would come and I just came. And it was when I came he was telling me that they were shooting a film, a documentary cum feature of the Kano emirate. So, I said okay that is very interesting. I think I have been talking about something like this for a long time. It is good that at last someone is serious about it and has come up with a practical solution to the problem. Now, it has started in Kano.
The film is talking about Kano, its culture, its people, its environment and whatever. It is socially likeable, commercially likeable about Kano itself and the people of Kano and life in Kano. And that might even encourage others to want to come to Kano. I think by producing a film like this, other emirates like Bauchi and Borno might want to do something similar in order to promote the culture of their people, the good things about their own lives generally.We see this kind of films more often in the South. How many years have we waited to have an epic feature film in the North?
In fact, there were many efforts before to make films of this nature. I remember, back in 1975-76, before FESTAC, there were efforts to produce films on people like Othman Dan Fodio, Kanta of Kebbi, Queen Amina of Zazzau and a host of others. A lot of them were not completed to the expected level. But at least, there had been efforts because I remember I was involved in almost all of these films I mentioned to you. I was involved in Kanta of Kebbi; I was involved in Othman Dan Fodio and then, the other one, Queen Amina at one time or the other. And then, there was one film, Shehu Umar, the adaptation of a story by the late Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The book was titled Shehu Umar and the Film Unit of the Federal Ministry of Information became interested in producing, that is adapting the book and producing a film out of it. In fact, a film was produced titled Shehu Umar about the book. But you see, it is unfortunate that one or two things happened that the film was not completed the way the producers would have wanted it completed or the way the people who want to see it would have seen it.Could these film you mentioned have been stalled for lack of funds? If so, how would you describe the issue of sponsorship in the Hausa film industry, generally speaking?
I don't suppose it is the huge cost that is the problem. Quite honestly, I am sure a lot of private enterprises would want to come in terms of sponsorship; to see to it that such films are produced. But then, you see, the issue is there are a lot of other considerations involved. The willingness of the people to allow this kind of film to be produced. Number two is the expertise that you need to actually collect all the necessary information you need and mould it up as a script. And after moulding it up into a script, putting it up for sale to the entrepreneurs so that they come over and buy them and then get the experts that would convert all these information collected into a sensible film production.
I think it is more of the attitude that is causing the problem rather than the financing, because I am sure a lot of people would…now for example, this particular film that we are shooting, I understand it is being sponsored by certain quarters because it meets the required standard. So, you can see it is not the money; there are a lot of other companies that would have wanted to back up these kinds of projects. But then, how many projects can you bring of such beauty and seriousness out of the Northerners? Are they willing to allow our films to be shot about the tradition of the Bauchi people or the Borno people? It is the willingness of the people to see to it that this thing is done. That is the most important thing. And then secondly is the issue of getting the expertise to actually collect all the necessary materials and information and mould it up into something that they actually want to show as a film. I don't think sponsorship is the problem. The money issue is not the problem. It is the attitude of the people and actually the expertise involved in producing a feasible script."
Talking about the people and this project, Bakan Dabo, what do you have to say about the Emir of Kano and the Emirate Council for giving approval for the project?
I must say this is very, very good and this is a rare breakthrough in the culture of the Northerners as I know it, and I am very likely to tell you that there is a possibility that after this Bakan Dabo film, other emirates would want to have something similar produced to actually promote them. I know it will eventually happen after this Bakan Dabo, if it is successfully produced; other people would be encouraged to allow, or any scriptwriter who is interested to come over to their place to collect all the necessary information, mould it up into a script and then they would get a sponsor and get the film shot.What is your overview of the Nigerian film industry as a whole?
Well, quite recently, there have been tremendous improvement in the number of films and the quantity; I mean the quality of the films produced in Nigeria today. I have been watching this Africa Magic television channel for a long time and I have been very, very impressed indeed, very impressed indeed with the number of films I have seen; the technical quality of the production, the artistic quality of the production and, in fact, the likeability of the storylines. And I still want to go back home, sit down and tune to this Africa Magic channel and see some of these very nice films. One of the good things about these Nigerian films is that now this thing has come to stay and is now more popular than foreign films. Because this is an opportunity, you are giving to Nigerians to sit down and watch their own people in their own lives and in their own culture; rather than the Nigerian going out to buy an Indian film, a Chinese film or whatever; a culture he is totally not used to. It is just for the fun of watching movies that we buy these foreign films. But now, they watch these films (Nigerians) not only because of the fun of watching a movie, but also for understanding more of their culture and the lives of their own people.What is your message to producers and crew of Bakan Dabo?
I will first of all say more grease to their elbows, and at the same time, ask that I hope they would at the end of the day produce a likeable film, full of information, entertainment, enlightenment, and glorification of the culture of the people they are trying to portray. Yes, if they are able to achieve all these things, at the end of the production to get a lot of these things into the film; that will be a lofty film, a very lofty film. I am sure if this succeeds, a lot of similar films would follow. I am sure there could be one on the Obi of Onitsha or the Eze of this place. Somebody will come up with something similar, I am sure.For the benefit of our young readers, may we have a brief insight into your past?
My past is a very simple one. I have all the time been involved in film production. But most of the time, most of the films I've been involved in producing were government sponsored films like Magana Jari Ce, Cockcrow at Dawn, and all these films we have been seeing. Cockcrow at Dawn was meant to encourage farmers to go over to the bank to get money so that they can produce more. It was just like Green Revolution promotions or films. Magana Jari Ce was just like an adaptation of folklores into films like you have over in Europe. You have such films about folklores, about the lives of the people at that time. So, that was what I was involved in all the time. Actually, I started going into the television studios in 1970, I think. And I have been all along going for such productions up till today, from artiste, to script writing, to producer, to all these things. I think it was because of that I at the tail end of my career as a civil servant I ended up being four times. I was director (art and culture), director of (film production services), director of here and there. It was as a result of all the contributions I have been making; so far, so good in the industry that actually encouraged the authorities to give me such responsibilities. On a final note, what is your advice to upcoming actors and actresses in the Nigerian film industry, not just the Hausa sphere now?
I think they are doing very well and I am so impressed with everything, everything that the artistes-actors and actresses and film producers are doing. But there is one thing I must say: Can we make our films less noisy? Have you ever observed that we got the nosiest films in the world? All films are good, but the Nigerian film is so full of noise. It is always crying, shouting (laughs) as if that is how we live our lives in Nigeria. But then, any time you see a Nigerian film the first thing you hear is the shouting (laughs) some of them will say Wow, Wow, Wow-a woman would shout at her husband, a father would shout at his daughter. But I don't think that is how we live, but they are just overdoing it maybe for cinematic reason. But I think there is a little overdoing it.