For nearly three decades now, the famous Hausa film industry known as, Kannywood, has been educating, entertaining, enlightening, and employing large number people from and outside of Nigeria. Before the emergence of Kannywood in 1990s, northerners watched a lot of movies specific but not bound to; Hindi (Bollywood), Hollywood, and foreign movies mostly from Europe and Asia. Kannywood movies treat their viewers with a mixture of modern-traditional culture glamour through captivating singing and dancing. Kannywood movies depict a typical Hausa culture and the daily life struggles of an ordinary Hausa man. It is also important to note that many of the messages passed through the motion pictures are adaptation from popular Hausa romance novels (litattafan soyayya) or a chapter from the Holly Qur’an and the saying of Prophet (PBUH).
You would hardly find a Hausa movie that does not begin with the phrase “Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem,” an Arabic phrase meaning (In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the most Merciful) and ends with Alhamdulillah (To God be the glory). Additionally, the majority of the Kannywood movie titles are quoted in Arabic or from chapters of the Qur’an, for example; Ashabul Kahfi, Ahlul Kitabi, Mujadala, Fisabilillah to name a few. I mentioned all these movie titles to inform the readers, (especially those who are new or not into the stream of Hausa movies) how Hausa movies are religiously and culturally loaded! Yet, people would argue and make a blanket judgement and call the entire filmmakers names.
It has never occurred to me even in my wildest imagination that such a gigantic institution as Kannywood would be blindly misjudged and misunderstood as a vehicle for spreading immoral decadence among youths. Recently, the federal government of Nigeria approved the proposal for Kano Film Village – a center for Hausa film industry. The film village will cost billions of Naira, create thousands of jobs and generates revenue to the state and federal government as well.
The proposed Kano Film village is modeled out of an Indian film city and China film center as well. Apart from the cinematography center, auditorium for training and sound stage, the film village will also have stadium, hostels, a 3-star hotel, restaurants, clinic, and a shopping mall among other things. These amenities are not only for the consumption of filmmakers alone, but the public is welcome to use all the facilities as well.
Shortly after Federal government approved the construction of multi-billion Naira film village in Kofa -Bebeji Local government Kano, many people mostly religious clerics and other “concern citizens” across the state condemned it and called for mass social media protest against the project. Some of the reasons for the condemnation is that filmmakers not only from the Southern part of Nigeria, but also from Europe and America would come to “practice immorality” and destroy Hausa values. This is not the first time Kannywood faced such negative…. It happened during colonial era, when the Lebanese business man build cinema in the state: it created tension and chaos in the city. The more you reject the idea, the stronger it becomes. Not too long ago, film was banned in Kano for years, but that does not end it forever, rather it became stronger. People should learn to embrace and live with modernity, the more you reject it, the stronger it becomes. It’s high time to table the the Kannywood and film in northern Nigeria, otherwise the industry maybe financed and supported by the foreign agencies and only God knows what would happen.
What people tend to forget is that Kannywood has been in dire need of government support for years. The industry kicked off almost same time or earlier than Nollywood, but due to lack of attention and investors among other things, Nollywood quickly became the leading movie industry not only in Nigeria but in Africa.
Here is an industry that employed thousands of youths making ends meet despite all technical challenges, but the whole idea misunderstood as evil, forgetting the fact that Kannywood employs more people than many public and private institutions in Nigeria. It has been speculated several years ago that if Kannywood would gain attention from the government and investors through capacity building and professional training, it would create thousands of jobs to the state and the region as well.
It’s too early to forget that the entire Kannywood industry campaigned for All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last general election and their immense contributions helped a lot in bringing the APC government into power, if the APC government is willing to support them film village is what Kannywood needs the most.
It’s interesting how people made some silly arguments that Hausa films/filmmakers are bunch of illiterate and agents of moral decadence. Isn’t that a shame to hear such clumsy argument in 21st century? In kannywood, the actors and filmmakers give more respect to their religion (Islam) in practice and in script, treat their culture with dignity to the extent that no physical contact is allowed between opposite sex on or off the camera. And as Mallam Muhsin Ibrahim pointed out in his Ana Wata Ga Wata Review. Despite its many flaws, there’s no mainstream film industry that produces films in a more compliant way with Islam than Kannywood. Not even the Pakistani, Afghan, Egyptian or Iranian films. It’s only in Kannywood that a married couple are not allowed to have any physical contact in films, no matter how intimate the couples are, words and facial expressions are the only means to express their intimacy.
Funny how some people take to twitter and other social media platforms to campaign about how film village will breed moral bankruptcy and totally ignoring the fact that nothing breeds moral bankruptcy like the social media and the channels we subscribe to. We’ve witnessed so many cases of young adults (males) on twitter exposing our Muslim girls who’ve sent their nude pictures to them. None of those girls exposed were Kannywood actress but our sisters at home. Also, Instagram and twitter were littered with pictures of our sisters exposing their bodies in a much publicized 2 day #Sallahfie beauty parade sessions that guys were tweeting lines like ‘I love my TL right now’ ‘Boobs all over my TL’ ‘Arewa girls are beautiful’ etc. That’s started just hours after the Holy months of Ramadan. Our brothers using +18 language with sisters on TL is the norm on twitter nowadays. In fact, the handles our sisters follow are of those people who are not ashamed of tweeting anything. Despite all that, and all the atrocities that is happening on facebook, whatsaap, Instagram etc, there was no uproar from our Northern community, never a campaign to shut it down. Ninety percent of the members in every Hausa household subscribe to one if not all social media platforms, what they do on it we don’t care but let’s pretend film village breeds moral bankruptcy.
The most ridiculous thing is how we played the ‘filmmakers would be coming to Film Village from Europe and America to teach immorality and destroy Hausa values’ card. No one has to come and teach us anything. we all know that Hollywood and its counterpart already lives in our homes through our phones, laptops and cables we use and subscribe to. They don’t need a “substandard” film village in a third world country to do that.
HBO don’t need a film village in northern Nigeria for John Snow to trend in Kano State. Why then protest about film village when our daughters/sisters and brothers are busy watching tv shows like Game of Thrones, Banshee, Spartacus etc, shows that are full of foul languages, nudity and sex when we are absolutely fine with it but we are too hypocritical to ever admit they destroy our morality and Hausa values?
Imagine the state of morals that we are fine with government/indivuduals in our society building Parks, International hotels, cinemas etc but reject the idea of a film village saying that it breeds moral bankruptcy. You could argue that someone will take your daughter(s) to those places not to a film village, because their pride won’t let them.
Everything comes with pros and cons, the good may outweigh the bad and vice versa, depending on how you see it. Despite it’s so many disadvantage we still buy smartphones to our children and expect them to do good with it. We allow them on social media despite the harrowing things that’s happening on it. Some people believe Nigerian Universities are like brothels but we didn’t campaign against it or call for total shut down simply because some people actually go there to learn. It’s the same thing with Film Village, regardless of what you think might happen, it is and will be beneficial to so many out there.
What we are saying is, Film Village may well come with its disadvantages but there are good people in this industry. People that are serious about the profession because their lives and that of their family and so many people depend on it. We have absolutely disregard that fact when we asked the federal government to shutdown a program that will benefit so many people.
I strongly believe that the film village will do more good than harm. From the economic perspective, I have no doubt that from the beginning of the construction to its completion, the film village will employ thousands of people mostly youths and Muslims talk less of its overall benefit. Believe me, the hospital/clinical facilities, stadium, and theaters could be used by Muslims and for religious gathering if the need arise.
Graduate Student in African Studies
Ohio University, Athens.