By Anna Mohr
The movie, There is a way, directed by Falalu A. Dorayi and produced by Abba El-Mustapha, is a simple but effective feel-good movie retelling popular tropes and stories in a predictable but heartwarming way. Following the recipe of Shakespearean dramatics and clichéd Disney movies in the 2000s, such as Cinderella Story or High School Musical, it easily can stand on its own while also covering issues of the Hausa society and giving insights into its culture – an entertaining and so sweet movie you can taste the sugar on your lips.
Isham is a middle-class university student with a pure heart who wants to get his degree through hard work. He falls high over heels for Fadilla, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. The two desperately want to be together but must face several problems threatening to destroy their relationship.
There is a Way was the first Hausa movie I watched, and although the story has already been told a thousand times, I easily became invested with it. Even though I rarely watch romantic movies, I have a soft spot for them. The quality of the film is fitting to the story itself: simple but refreshing. Please, do not expect finesse camerawork or outstanding dialogues – you will surely be disappointed. But the blunt storytelling is made up of dramatics that can easily compete with those of the Bollywood film industry.
The movie itself is certainly no piece of art. It is amateurishly made: the camera is wiggling, and the lighter colours in the scenes are sometimes glaring and unnatural. At the same time, the movie uses effects such as slow-motion, certain scenes are muted to create tension and dramatic music is played in between.
The story itself is predictable as typical for a romantic movie and has similarities to our Western fairy tales and Elizabethan or ancient love stories: Man meets a woman and falls in love at first sight, but their love is doomed, and they have to face challenges before being together. Also, the poor protagonist and his rich-born love interest are no rarity in this genre. Another aspect I recognized in the film is the flat characters: We have a pure-hearted hero who cannot do wrong. But instead, tragedy happens to him, and his pureness is challenged. I found that quite wasted because characters are made to make mistakes. They can only grow when they do wrong and when they fail. There is a sense of relatedness that I miss.
The characters themselves are introduced in simplicity. When Fadilla’s parents appear on screen, they are introduced with “Hello Mum” and “Hello Dad”, which is blunt and unimaginative to share the family ties with the viewer. The dialogues are just as direct. The movie is in English, and there is no dubbing involved, meaning that Hausa people speak a language that is not their own. That includes that the dialogues are often wooden and lacking finesse. “I will tell you the secret of …” is just one example of the movie’s very direct way of communication, and I daresay that it would have been more natural if the characters had spoken in their own language. The English script has some sentences that are generally not used, leading to many exaggerated dialogues. For example, “you harbour a criminal” when Isham is accused of cheating in an exam.
So, why do I like this movie?
Easy: Because it has charm. It is charming how Isham and Fadilla are swooning about each other. How they tell each other Shakespearean confessions of undyeable love as if they just teleported into one of his sonnets; how they are the embodiment of a Greek tragedy, a Hausa variant of Romeo and Juliet; how the world is joined against them, but they are still standing side by side.
Viewing the Hausa society and culture in the movie is also fascinating. When watching it, you may recognize that male and female characters are never touching each other – not mother and son, not father and daughter, nor the lovers. In addition, women are wearing scarves – hijabs – around their heads, so you cannot see their hair.
Another interesting fact is the mention of Allah instead of God, which I needed some time to get used to the first time I watched the movie. Also, certain issues are discussed: For example, the gap between poor and rich, the importance of education and the problem of corruption and blackmailing at university. These aspects convey the information I would not find out otherwise and give more insights than any textbook in school.
To put it all together, the movie is a people pleaser. You can easily be invested in the plot and follow the relationship between Isham and Fadilla, although the story itself is simple and predictable. At the same time, there are interesting aspects of culture and society. So, I recommend watching it!
Anna Mohr studies at the University of Cologne, Germany. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.