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The lost glory of Kannywood films

By Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu

Despite the lifting of the ban on filmmaking in Kano, only few filmmakers are currently operating in the state under the umbrella of the popular Hausa film industry, Kannywood, Sunday Trust can report.

Investigation carried out by this reporter indicated that the majority of Kano-based filmmakers are still moving to other states for shootings and other related film activities. This, Sunday Trust gathered might not be unconnected with the negative atmosphere caused by the state censorship board, which has rolled out stringent punishment for films that are not in tandem with prescribed morale standards.

Some of the actors who spoke to Sunday Trust on the low level activities of filmmaking in the state attributed the problem to the activities of the state censorship board. They argued that the activities of the board have portrayed the film industry in a bad light to the general public.

To Baballe Hayatu, a famous actor in the Kannywood, “The problem with filmmaking in the state is nothing but a result of the ban on their activities. This is simply because the light in which the board has thrown on us (filmmakers) in the society has tarnished the image of Hausa film industry. That was why even when the ban was lifted, a lot of people decided to keep off the business”.

He added that apart from the bad image of filmmaking portrayed by the board, a lot of filmmakers were initially solely dependent on what they made out of it. Therefore, when their means of living was sabotaged, they decided to venture into other sectors of the economy to eke out a living resolved not to return to the industry even when the ban was lifted.

Baballe also told our reporter that “No one in the industry has a guarantee of this business because there is just no certainty on what next is going to happen on the issue of rules and regulations governing operations of the industry.”

He emphasized that “We have no job security, therefore, even those of us that are back to acting are not fully relying on it. The resulting effect is that since we are not fully committed, our performance might not be up to expectation. Moreover, the better part of our films (songs and dances), for which many of our fans patronise our products, has been scrapped out”.

Baballe added that the action of scaling down the performance of the industry has done a lot of harm than good because even though they were accused of polluting Hausa culture, nothing has so far changed in the Hausa society.

According to him, “films are a replica of the real society and what obtains in the film industry is nothing other than a portrayal of the society in the media. Therefore, I am still insisting that it is not that we don't make mistakes, but things are being exaggerated and our faults over-emphasised.”

He continued, “It is a pity that as a result of an attempt to remedy some shortfalls of filmmakers, a lot of people are rendered jobless and idle. I think things were not handled properly.”

He recalled thus, “I can still remember the words of a white man who came to Nigeria to study filmmaking in this country. He studied a good number of our films and that of our counterpart, Nollywood. His comment with regards to our films was that we didn't allow our films to be diluted with western cultures and that is why it might be very difficult for our films to be accepted in advanced countries. But here we are, being accused of polluting Hausa culture with western culture. Can you just imagine?”

Sadiya Mohammed, popularly known as Sadiya Gyale, another film actress in the Kannywood, told our reporter that film acting is no longer business as usual in Kano . She explained that “Most of us in the film industry are no longer finding it funny. The pay is no longer attractive and this cannot but be blamed on the ban and stringent rules placed on acting by the state censorship board,” she said.

She further stated that even with the lifting of the ban on filmmaking, the subsequent stringent measures placed on the trade have discouraged a lot of producers, actors, and actresses from acting. It is affecting the army of persons rendering support service in the industry.

Her words, “I think what the ban has done to Kannywood is more harm than good because instead of it to serve as a remedy to the so-called wrongs of the whole process, it has turned out to be a threat to the lives so many people. I say this because the business is no longer lucrative and challenging as it used to be before government started to checkmate its affairs”.

Projecting the future of Kannywood films, considering its present stage, she added that, “The fact is, most of the interesting and creative aspects of Hausa films have been thrashed out due to the new guidelines put in place by the censorship board. It will take a while before Hausa film will regain its lost glory in Kano . I believe people will come to get used to watching our films without the most interesting part, i.e. music”.

Also speaking on the issue, Ali Rabiu Ali expressed dismay over the present situation, saying that, “It is indeed disheartening that most filmmakers have to abandon their profession as a result of frustration by government.”

“Without prejudice to the position of government on the issue of filmmaking and related issues, I think it is too harsh and inconsiderate because, it did not provide any alternative after sweeping a lot of people off their feet, and it is the same government that is complaining about unemployment”.

On why the industry is not as vibrant as it used to be in the past, Rabiu said, “most of the films made in Kano no longer sell like those made in neighbouring states. Therefore, not very much is pumped into filmmaking as no producer will invest a huge amount to produce a film that will not be popular,” he said.

It would be recalled that Kannywood films, during the last decade, had gained a lot of popularity within Nigeria and even beyond. But the filmmakers were accused of polluting Hausa culture by introducing alien cultures, particularly Indian, and to some extent, western cultures.

In addition there was a controversial video sex scandal in which one of the film stars of Kannywood Maryam Hiyana played a central role. As a result, the Kano state censorship board banned filmmaking in the state for almost one year.

Early last year, the censorship board lifted the ban on filmmaking but it introduced stringent rules and guidelines to filmmaking in the state, the measures, which many artists considered as tactics to cripple their activities.

Among the rules are that all filmmakers register with the board, all films be censored by the board before they are released and the ban of popular songs and dances. The last part of the rules negatively impacted on the sales Kannywood made movies. Other rules introduced by the board include dress code and restrictions on the kind of scenes that can be acceptable to the board.

Inuwa Hussaini who runs a video rental studio at Hotoro Tsamiyar Boka told our reporter that the absence of dances and songs in Hausa films had really affected patronage of such films. “The business is no longer paying and this is simply because people no longer find the new trend in Kannywood film production interesting.”

Some film viewers also commented on the dampened performance of Kannywood filmmakers and most of them are of the view that they no longer find the films as interesting as it used to be. They complained that the major thing missing in the films are the popular dances and songs.

Hausa Musa has interest in Hausa films. She said, “I don't find it interesting any longer. The films of these days are so dull and most of the good actors are no longer featuring in the films”.

Umar Yusuf, who said he is a lover of Hausa films, said also, “ Hausa films have their own shortcomings, but instead of killing the act through placing stringent rules, the government would have simply worked closely with the filmmakers so as to effect all corrections in the industry amicably. With the current hostility, the censorship board is not helping matters,” he lamented.