By Muhsin Ibrahim
The year 2020 is unlike any other in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. We now have lockdown in countries; we have to keep social distancing, wear a facemask, among other protocols. The virus batters the entertainment industries from Los Angeles to Lagos, Mumbai to Mombasa, Cairo to Kano, forcing several cinemas to shut down. Thus, shooting and showing film had to stop. Nevertheless, that boosts TV and video on demand (VoD) contents and opens a gate for new ‘genres’ of YouTube series and serials. In northern Nigeria, these include Kwana Casa’in, Gidan Badamasi, Labarina, Izzar So, A Duniya, Na Ladidi, among many others.
Kannywood began the year auspiciously with a box-office hit, Mati A Zazzau. Therefore, the audience expected to see many more similar or better films. Although producers made only a few (movies) eventually, these include the excellent, the good, the bad and the ugly. Evidently, the pandemic disrupted or ruined several plans in Kannywood, too. Anyway, the following are some I consider above their peers. Please note that the numbering is, in no way, hierarchical.
- Wutar Kara
The film, shown briefly in cinemas in 2019 and released in 2020, deals with a thorny yet unexplored topic of inheritance in Hausa land. Alhaji (Ibrahim Mandawari) is a wealthy family man with multiple wives and several children. As is often the case in such a house, there is disunity among the family members, some of whom are wayward. He unexpectedly dies in a car crash. Serious rancour ensues over the wealth he left behind. Finally, everyone gets their share. Unfortunately, most of them embezzle the inheritance, worth several millions of naira in cash and property, so quickly. Yaseen Auwal directed the movie while Bashir Maishadda is the producer. The performance of Ali Nuhu, Sadiq Sani Sadiq, Aminu Sharif Momoh, Maryam Yahaya, among others, is notable and praiseworthy. Dare I say the film is one of the best to have ever been made in Kannywood.
- Mati a Zazzau
As a sequel to Mati da Lado, the film starts from where Mati (Sadiq Sani Sadiq) wanders in an unknown village following his escape from Rimau. He and his brother-accomplice, Lado (Tahir I. Tahir) duped Rimau village people for years by pretending to be Islamic scholars. The townspeople chased them away when they discovered their identity. Mati finds himself in Zazzau, where, coincidentally, his late, rich father had lived and left a substantial treasure in the hands of a confidant. The rest of the story mainly revolves around Mati’s effort, if not trickery, to get the wealth. Yaseen Auwal directed it while Rahama Sadau & Sadiq Sani Sadiq take the credit for its production. The film is doubtlessly successful as per Kannywood’s box-office record. Thanks to well-calibrated publicity and promotion by Rahama Sadau and her team, it reportedly pulled out a record audience. Fans of the Mati franchise love the film.
- Matar Mutum
The film, also shown in cinemas in late 2019 and released to the broader public in 2020, exposes indiscriminate marriages among Hausa people. Malam Idi (Rabi’u Rikadawa) is a guardsman who marries and divorces women at will. As a result, he has lost count of his children, whose mothers are mostly no longer living with them. Two of his oldest children are thieves and drug addicts; another is married to a stingy husband while the other wed her heartthrob, who, quite weirdly, maltreats her after the marriage. Despite all this, Idi uses his daughter’s bride price to marry a widower, Ladidi (Halima Atete). He eventually gets sick, thanks to his countless marriages, after which everyone abandons him. Yaseen Auwal directed and produced this movie. The topic and the action stand out. Daddy Hikima’s role is outstanding. Besides, Idi’s daughters deserve better treatment from their husbands, for, after all, their father’s fault is not theirs.
- Dafin So
Bashir (Adam A. Zango) is raised by an overprotective mother who spoils him, leading him to drug addiction. He runs away from home and, eventually, becomes somewhat insane. One day, a posh Nabila (Aisha Tsamiya) brings her car for repair close to the refuse site Bashir and his friends live on the heap to smoke and consume drugs. He comes to the garage to beg the mechanics for food, as he usually does. When they chase him away to protect their customer, she feels sorry – or more – for him. Against the odds, she follows him until she finally gets him fully rehabilitated. Typical of such a film, she falls in love with him and asks him to marry her, a choice her father furiously rejects. Her betrothed dumps her after an accident left her wheelchair-bound. Then, the father realises that only a true lover can marry his daughter, and Bashir is one. Though the story is not very novel, its execution is laudable. It’s directed by Sadiq N. Mafia and produced by Abdul Amart. The Zango vs Tsamiya chemistry is indisputable; likewise, their acting flair.
- Kazamin Shiri
Alhaji Sammani (Rabi’u Rikadawa) is a wealthy man with a beautiful, happy family. He weirdly falls in love with a married woman, Karima (Bilkisu Shema), who is contented with her low- income husband, Badamasi (Ali Nuhu). She rejects Sammani’s absurd love overture. After a series of pressure coming from her bosom friend, mother and eventually her husband, she recapitulates. The film is full of intrigue and is also well directed and acted. Nonetheless, the ending may encourage such behaviour in a society known for its cherished socio-moral and religious values. It’s directed and produced by Sunusi Oscar 442 and Alhaji Sheshe, respectively. Aminu Sharif and Fati Washa did very well. Mr Rikadawa displays his exceptional talent in this drama.
This film, supposedly, comes with a difference in storytelling in Kannywood. It tells the story of a bipolar Umar (Umar M. Sharif) on a psychiatric medical trial. The film’s first frame shows him in a relationship with Fati (Fatima Kinal), who eventually dies. Heartbroken, he struggles to forget her and forge ahead with his life. He continues schooling until he graduates. As an NYSC corps member in Jigawa, he sees the same Fati who, however, like everyone there, have no earthly clue of his identity. He does all he could to remind her of their past life, and so on. Many audiences criticise the plot concept; showing two separate, yet connected, stories from Umar’s psychotic state is, at best, ambiguous and, at worst, incredible. Part of the story also resembles another film, Hafeez, which is also by the same producer and similar casts. Kamal S. Alkali is the director, while Bashir Maishadda is the producer.
Voiceless is one of the emergent Boko Haram-inspired movies set on the dreadful insurgents’ abduction of Chibok schoolgirls. The romantic thriller tells the story of Goni (Adam Garba) and Salma (Asabe Madaki) – two victims kidnapped by “Sojojin Aljanna” [The Army of Paradise]. Although that moves the plot, their love life is not the main focus. It’s, instead, the insurgency and its attendant consequences. The movie receives critical acclaim from Muslim and Christian viewers for its ‘fair’ treatment of the sensitive topic. Even though the title is in English, the film’s dialogue track is in the Hausa language. Moreover, while the actors are primarily ethnic Hausa, the filmmakers are not. Robert O. Peters directed it while Rogers Ofime is the producer. Overall, the film is a big challenge to the mainstream Kannywood folks who rely mostly on Bollywood-esque themes at the expense of abundant others in their immediate surroundings.
- The Milkmaid
The Milkmaid was also inspired by Boko Haram and the iconic photo of Fulani milkmaids on the back of Nigeria’s 10 naira note. Nigeria submitted it as its entry for the 2021 Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category. The film is the second to have reached that height after Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart, which was, quite sadly, rejected in 2019. As the title suggests, set in Taraba state, the movie tells the story of a milkmaid (Maryam Booth) whose sister is abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. Though I have yet to watch it, that nomination is a testimony that it more than qualifies to be here. Although non-Hausa filmmakers made it, its dialogue track is in the language (Hausa). From the trailer, the film’s cinematography is impeccable. It is yet another, perhaps more significant, challenge to the mainstream Kannywood film practitioners.
It’s written, directed and produced by Desmond Ovbiagele.
The eponymous movie tells the story of a couple, Yusuf (Yakubu Mohammed) and Zahra (Maryam Booth), whose only child, Jalil, gets sick, and the hospital demands 33 million nairas for his operation. The couple does not have that much money even after an online fundraising campaign. Yusuf also refuses to procure the funds via any illegal means, a decision that angers his mother. Zahra is a TV host and has a friend, Jazzy (Sadi Sawaba), who is desperately looking for money to pay a debt. Therefore, Jazzy, his friend and Zahra’s mother-in-law, fake abduction of the latter to extort money from the couple and Yusuf’s wealthy brother, who earlier refused to assist them due to a family feud. The film has some issues, such as an implausible friendship between Zahra and Jazzy, an unexplained motive for Jazzy’s desperation for money, and a lack of continuity in some scenes. It’s, nonetheless, a good film. It’s yet another movie made by non-Hausa producers in the Hausa language, which also features the majority of Hausa actors. It’s directed by Leslie Dapwatda and produced by Kelly D. Lenka
- Gidan Kashe Ahu
Yaseen Auwal and Umar S. K/Mazugal as director and producer, came with another very topical social drama titled Gidan Kashe Ahu. It exposes the consequences of poor parenting through the stories of Hafsat (Maryam Yahaya) and Indo (Amal Umar). Both belong to low-income families where the former suffers at the hands of a cruel stepmother while the latter faces a forced marriage to an elderly, harsh man who divorces women at will. They eventually flee and end up in a brothel. The movie is one of the best in the history of Kannywood for several reasons, such as the subject matter, the almost-accurate depiction of its 1980s setting, directorial work, performance, among others. It also contains many lessons for parents, girls, prostitutes and the rest. I highly recommend it.