By Saddam Ungogo
Light and Darkness (2018) is one of Kabiru Musa Jammaje’s Kannywood films in English. He is a fantastic filmmaker with ideas, but I always feel it isn’t a good idea to make such films. If it is something worth doing, Ali Nuhu would have made a few, Karan Johar would have made a Bollywood film in English. Instead, however, we saw indigenous films winning prestigious global awards.
At the Oscars, we even have an award category called ‘The Academy Award for Best International Feature Film’ (known as Best Foreign Language Film before 2020). It is given to feature films produced outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue.
Directed by Hassan Giggs, written by Ilyasu Umar Maikudi and co-produced by Kabiru Musa Jammaje and Abubakar Bashir Maishadda, Light and Darkness is a story that revolves around Alhaji Balarabe Maikadara (Rabi’u Rikadawa), who is allergic to western education. The movie was set in an urban Hausa society of the 2000s, and it turned out to be a domestic drama with ‘education’ as its central theme.
Alhaji Maikadara was a well-endowed businessman. He married his second wife, Raliya (Rahma Sadau), with a promise to let her further her education, but after having her under his watch, he transgressed his end of the bargain. He had two grown-up children, Abba (Nuhu Abdullahi) and Basma (Maryam Booth), with his late wife. He chased Basma out of the house when she protested his intention to give her hand out in an arranged marriage. Instead, Basma preferred to go to school.
The film tries to identify the significance of education, paint it as light, parade the remonstrance of ignorance, and sketch it as darkness.
The film has good intentions, but it lacks preparation. Something tells me that the film cast was selected based on who they are or because they could speak English. Stories are supposed to call for actors.
Viewers were rushed through the storytelling, the story was stitched with anxiety, and the dialogues were incompatible with the character profiling.
Jammaje decided to be the line’s director, which I think was a blunder. He assigned uneducated characters to speak big grammar and talk with idiomatic expressions. Perhaps he was trying “to use the opportunity to teach English to viewers”, as he bragged in a Daily Trust interview on January 7, 2017.
Throughout the movie, I asked myself what audience the filmmakers had in mind while putting it together. Staged in an urban setting, written in English and with education (girl-child education included) as its cardinal message, this story was huge. Its target audience should be rural Hausa communities where there is a high level of out-of-school young people and children, where western education is still not condescended. If that is the case, the language used in transmitting this message must have spooked away from the suitable audience of the movie.
This is 2022. The movie was made in 2018. Maybe nobody would even care about this review, even the filmmakers themselves. Jammaje made many movies after this one, including The Right Choice, which his co-producer Maishadda called the “biggest Kannywood project ever in terms of finance”,…costing N35m.
The Right Choice (2020) was worth N35m. It featured top Nigerian stars from both Kannywood and Nollywood industries, such as Sani Mu’azu, Segun Arinze, Sola Sobowale, Nancy E.Isime, Enyinna Nwigwe and Ali Nuhu.
With The Right Choice, Jammaje Production must have learnt that they needed to be more pragmatic and made a complete Nollywood movie. Or, maybe, a Nigerianized film so that Jammaje could teach his beloved English language through his role as he would get educated cinema-goers lining up for his work anywhere around the world.
As for Hausa consumers like me, do not dare bring something like Light and Darkness ever again.
You might be promoting my culture with Light and Darkness, but honestly, you were killing my language!
Saddam Ungogo is a Kanp-based broadcaster and singer. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.