Usman Adam, one of the renowned producers and directors of Kannywood narrates the joys and challenges film making in the ancient city of Kano.
He also went down memory lane to recall how he and a group of friends, including star actor Ali Nuhu, came up with the idea of joining Kannywood. This is a must read.
May we meet you?
My name is Usman Adam. I was born in Yakasai quarters. I had my primary school education up to secondary school. I also have an NCE and B.Ed. Presently I am working with the Kano State Agency for Mass Education. I am also a director, producer and the managing director of Hali Dubu Company.
What is the correlation between your fields of study and film making?
We started film making as a hobby. When I wanted to study for my degree, I studied Literature in English which is related to reading literary works, writing and in some ways related to film making. It really helped me in entering Kannywood wholeheartedly.
And in relation to film making itself, I underwent many courses and workshops. I visited a professional centre, Shoot, in Jos where I obtained a certificate. There is also MOPAN in Jos where I also secured a certificate. Furthermore, I obtained a National Diploma from the Ancient School of Media Study, New Delhi, India. All these are related to film making, directing, marketing and distribution. I didn’t just sit like that. While we work, we do go out to increase our knowledge on the profession so that if issues arise, we will always find ways to solve them.
For example, when we started films making 20 years ago, we used to produce them in video cassettes. When CD came, we didn’t accept it quickly because of the nature of our people and lack of the technological know-how. But because of the knowledge we have gained, we know that our works can be distributed wide and near through different media like the internet and the satellite. Because of this, most of works now are geared towards satellite stations more than taking them to the market.
Many things have changed. As it is now, many people don’t have time to buy CDs from the market. If they satellite dishes at home, they will watch different channels that show different movies. He can also download movies from the internet to watch.
Seeking knowledge has opened our eyes to see these changes quickly and thereafter we find ways to be ahead.
When did you join Kannywood and what really attracted you?
In the early 90s we were ardent fans of Indian films. Back then, we had a group for Indian films fans which included Ali Nuhu, Shu’aibu Lawan (Kumurchi), Hafizu Bello and many other people. When Hausa films started, we asked ourselves “Why don’t we convert into Hausa films?” As time goes on, some of us who were well to do started producing while others supported them. And later on, we also joined and produced ours.
Do you act and/or produce?
No, I don’t act. I started out as a producer. But later on, after the courses I took on directing, I switched into directing.
How many films do you have and which are the most popular?
I have many films in which I played the role of producer just like I also have those I played the director role. And in all these, there are popular ones.
In the beginning while I was still producing, we started with the film Dalal and the most popular one from my company was Kushu’i. There are other films like Fitrah, Zilhari, Arashi and so on.
When I started directing, I started with a film called Daulah which Ali Nuhu acted as a mad man. The successful ones from those I directed include Jadawali, Gaskiya Ta Fi Kobo, Tambihi, Turare Mai Kamshi, Nasiha and so on.
Even right now, there is a film we started filming in India and concluded here in Nigeria, which will be released after Eid-el-Fitr. The film featured many stars like Ibrahim Mandawari, Hamisu Lamido Iyantama and Ali Nuhu. The film is based on political squabbles and the lifestyle of the society. These are some of the films I can recollect right now.
Do you have any regret joining Kannywood?
How can the place you drink and dine from become a source of regret? I have never for a second regretted joining Kannywood. Rather I grow fond of it every day. I will always thank God almighty for what I have achieved. Even though I am a civil servant, the wealth film making has made for me is far, far more than what I gotten from my salaried work.
This is because most salaried works have time limits. But film making is a profession you do, where you can solve your personal needs. I have built a house, owned a car, married and done most of my things from film making. What else do I want? I thank God. I have no regrets.
What are your dreams for the future?
Our dream for the future is that we want to take Kannywood producers to the heights world producers have reached. We want our films to be nominated for and probably win in some international films festivals. We want our films to reach international standards, so that we can distribute them in overseas film industries like Bollywood, Hollywood, and so on. These are some of our dreams. We want government and other stakeholders to help us in achieving these dreams.
We will not say we are not benefitting from film making. But if you compare what we get with what our counterparts from other parts of the world are getting, you will see a vast difference. The difference is just incomparable; just like distance between heaven and earth.
In overseas, there are people who have not made more than two films in their entire life. But if you see the money they generated from these films and the achievements they made you will be surprised. Right now, I have listed about 15 films which I have made. These 15 films might not reach even a quarter of what our counterparts will achieve with just one film.
This is one of the challenges of our business. But we believe that if we keep on striving, we will get to the Promised Land. As it is now, we have begun to see light in the end of the tunnel. Even last year, one of our producers from Kano, Hamisu Lamido Iyantama, was nominated for his film, Tsintsiya, to the Cannes Films Festival in France. Even though he didn’t win anything, we still see his nomination is an achievement.
Have you struck deals with satellite stations?
Right now, the only satellite channel we benefit from is African Magic, one of DSTV channels. Apart from it, there is no any other standard satellite channel that directly collects Hausa contents. Even if there is, I am not aware of it. What we have here are local stations. We have Arewa24, Farin Wata, Rayuwa, Dadin Kowa, and so on.
We want an international station that if you go into deal with, you will know you have really entered into a deal. You will receive substantial amount; but not these kinds of stations where you only receive pennies. Even the pennies are not consistent.
You cannot put these local stations into consideration. These stations are the ones benefitting from us. Not the other way round. They popularize their channels with our contents.
What are your challenges?
Some of our challenges are stigmatization and lack of promotion. The societal view on actors is a very big problem. Lack of support is also a bane to us.
Let’s say I wrote a script that will make use of a helicopter and army barrack, I will find it very difficult to get. Perhaps, at the end of the day, I might get frustrated and give up. Nobody will support me. This is unlike our counterparts who are given full support. If anybody here in Nigeria gets these supports, he or she must have connections in government circles.
But as an individual who registered your company with the Corporate Affairs Commission and who pays his due taxes to the Federal Inland Revenue and others, you cannot write a letter to the commander of a barrack and he investigates that you are a duly registered body to make films and then he gives you permission to make film in his barrack. You cannot also write to the governor of your state requesting him to serve as your guarantor. The governor will not do it. Except you have connections.
The third issue is piracy. There is a board in Nigeria that fights piracy which we are expected to register with and pay money. But in a situation where you report to them that your films are being pirated in a particular place, you will be the one that will fetch the police and pay for their transportation and allowances. Is that how things should be done? There will never be development in this way.
Furthermore, as film makers, we are supposed to have good rapport with religious leaders. We should be able to sit and rub minds with them to discuss ideas that the society needs to be guided on. We create films based on these ideas, the scholars vet the films and if there are places that need to be corrected, they notify and we make the necessary corrections. The scholars will be able to pass their messages to the society and we will be able to make our films. Through this, there will be good change in the society.
As it is today, there are people who will not listen to sermons. But if you dramatise it, attract their attentions, pass a message saliently, the people would probably imbibe the message. But the scholars are not forthcoming.
Any last words!
I want people to look beyond the surface of things. Governments should also look into our profession and help. They should come into it, participate and ensure that there are improvements and development.
If for nothing else, we have reduced much burden on the government because we are self-reliant. Even though I have an NCE and a degree to vouch, I am self-employed and have about 10 people working under me. This is something. The economy of the state and the nation at large will improve.