(107): Top 10 Kannywood Films of 2018

By
Muhsin Ibrahim

The article was written for, and published by, the BBC Hausa service. Here is a link to a slightly different Hausa version published on their webpage:  Fina-finan Kannywood 10 da suka shahara a 2018

Kannywood film industry survives yet another year. Not only that, it prospers and produces films of various genres, chiefly comedy, romance and, scarcely, epic. They include Adam Zango’s offensively funny flick, Dan Kuka a Birni; Ali Nuhu’s remake of his 2000 hit musical, Mujadala, among others. Kabiru Jammaje, the force behind the reincarnation of English language branch of Kannywood also sponsored another posh royal tale titled In Search of the King. Nafisa Abdullahi’s much-publicised movie, Yaki a Soyayya also seems promising. Thus, the year is well spent.

The following movies were adjudged to be the best of the eventful year, which is, more or less, overshadowed by the build-up to Nigeria’s general election early next year. The politics forays into Kannywood and, allegedly, divides the struggling industry, threatening to disunite its recently-reconciled members further once again. Anyway, that should not matter now. The numbering is, in no way, hierarchical.

1.     Ruwan Dare
Arguably one of the most topical films ever made in Kannywood, Ruwan Dare, directed by Yaseen Auwal, sends a chilling criticism to graduates who look down upon any job offers other than the so-called white-collar ones. Aminu Sharif a.k.a Momoh and Sadiq Sani Sadiq are two unbridled get-rich-quick, over-ambitious holders of bachelor degrees in Accountancy and Economics, respectively. Their friend, another graduate, Baballe Hayatu does precisely the opposite of that and, therefore, succeeds in the end. The duo, too, learns their lesson much later and repent.


The movie is extraordinary in its thematic preoccupation for its relevance and contemporaneity. Additionally, the actors, aforementioned and the rest, deliver it excellently. The film’s drawbacks, such as mentioning Yugoslavia as a country in 2018, grammatical bloopers, repetition, among others, are rather pardonable.

2.     Rabi’atu
Rabi’atu, directed by Aminu S. Bono, is a silent achieving film. Set, all-in-all, in 3 houses, the drama exposes the danger house girls face at their workplaces. Acted by the talented Maryam Yahaya, the eponymic Rabi’atu does all the housework at Alhaji Rabi’u Rikadawa’s big house as his wife, Hadiza Muhammad, works and his four children go to school. She is a naive, kind and admirable girl from a low-income family. Therefore, every member of the family loves her, with the two older sons competing to secure a special place in her heart. She rejects both, telling them that she is way below their league. However, none of them relents. In the midst of this, someday, their father finds her alone in the house and rapes her. Later on, his wife discovers the pregnancy Rabi’atu gets from the rape and so much follows.

The film is a low budget production with a highly contemporary, burning topic. Moreover, the story seems original and is handled brilliantly by the director, his crew and the mostly low-profile actors. No song and dance sequence. Not only that, the resolution reached will leave many audiences impressed. 

3.     Fuska Biyu
The Yaseen Auwal’s Fuska Biyu is a severe critique of how some parents rush into marrying off their daughters without any due verification of their husbands. The film tells the story of a kidnapping kingpin, Adam A. Zango, who disguises as a local fish seller during the day. Amal, an innocent girl from a low-income family, sells food beside Zango’s stall. The duo falls in love. The sort of gifts he gives her leads her mother to smell something fishy. However, Amal’s father insists that his daughter has found a marriageable husband, only for him to realise his mistake when it is too late. The movie is full of intriguing drama. It is worth every kobo of the audience.

4.     Risala
Titled Risala, an Arabic word meaning “message”, the Abubakar S. Shehu’s film is entirely set in the past. The versatile Sadiq Sani Sadiq (Zakariyya), in a leading role, sets out on a quest to find a person he wrongs, to ask for his forgiveness. It is an adventurous journey, filled with intrigues and mishaps. He meets yet another test after reaching his destination, a fictional town called Baihan. He will only be forgiven if he agrees to marry the ugliest, disabled daughter of his forgiver. He grudgingly agrees. The wife, however, turns out to be the most beautiful lady alive. As with the traditional, tripartite pattern of departure-adventure-return, Zakariyya returns home with his stunning bride.

In addition to the film’s few failings such as over-didacticism, artificial special effect, part of the story is appropriated from the birth history of the renowned Islamic scholar, Abu Hanifa. Anyway, many Kannywood stories are not original. Moreover, the film’s directorial work is impressive, and other positives.

5.     Hakki
As the saying goes, old is gold. The prominent Iyantama Multimedia produced Hakki while the veteran Hafizu Bello directed the movie. It tells the story of Jabir, an incorruptible, determined worker-cum-unionist at a leather factory. He fearlessly fights injustice and maltreatment of all staff members by the company’s management. A subtext tells the story of a female gang who lures men into their den to be robbed by their accomplices.

The film is still released only in the cinemas. It earned nominations for several awards and acclaimed for its unique subject matter, a complete departure from the ubiquitous Kannywood love stories. Also, it is very contemporary at a time the country’s labour union battles with the government over salary increment. The movie could, however, do more than sugar-coating the union.

6.     Mariya
The movie, Mariya, directed by Ali Nuhu, deals with the boiling issue of girl-child marriage in Hausa land. The film received outstanding publicity, thanks to its amazing songs. It tells the story of eponymic Mariya (acted by Maryam Yahaya) who is accused of killing her aged husband, Baba Karkuzu and his obsequious friend, Musa Maisana’a, with poison. She is, before the forced marriage, deeply in love with Abdullahi (Umar M. Sharif), though she dreams to study medicine. It is discovered later that she is not responsible for the murder, his other wife, Hadiza Muhammad is. She does that to end his rampant marriages and divorces as he fails to cater for the many children there already are in the house.

The film’s biggest shortcoming is its vague plot. In general, the film is very topical and timely. The actors did well. Maryam Yahaya, as usual, did outstandingly. The performances of the rogue, Talle (Garzali Miko); veteran Baba Karkuzu, and avaricious Bala (Alhassan Kwalle) are especially impressive. Likewise, the crew is outstanding. The editing, lighting and costuming also deserve a particular mentioning.

7.     Larai Ko Jummai
The co-wives’ struggle is not a distinctive subject in Kannywood. However, focusing on their children is. Jummai (Amal Umar) and Larai (Maryam Yahaya) are stepsisters. While Jummai’s mother (Ladidi Fagge) is unrepentantly troublesome, Larai’s is the opposite. Their husband, acted by Bashir Nayaya, is always patient with both. As it often happens in villages, their cousins (Abdul M. Sharif and Garzali Miko), who are very close friends fall in love with the two sisters. However, as Garzali looks richer because he works in the city, Fagge machinates until he is forced to marry her daughter. Things change overnight, and Abdul becomes more successful after he follows his bosom friend to the city.

Sadiq N. Mafia’s directed Larai Ko Jummai stands out for several reasons. However, it lacked active promotion as it is not a big-budget movie. It is such a highly realistic drama, perhaps one of the best, that portrays a typical culture of Hausa rural life and the common discord between co-wives over inanities at their husband’s house.

8.     Taqaddama
Ali Gumzak-directed Taqaddama tells “a true-life story” of a spoilt scion, Hassanu (Aminu Sharif). His highly politically connected, wealthy father, Alhaji Bilya (Ali Nuhu) does his son’s bidding, quickly gets him out of jail when sued for any wrongdoing and refuses to welcome any criticism from anyone. It does not, however, end well for both after he murders a friend, Salisu, over an argument at a nightclub. Hassanu sternly warns their other friend, Nura (Abba El-Mustapha) who witnesses the murder never to tell anyone or else he will be killed as well. Guilty consciousness cannot allow him to bury this secret, and that leads to the tragic end of the murderer.

As a socio-political critique of the Nigerian elite society, the movie shines all the more with its remarkable cinematographic work. The casting, save Ali Nuhu’s as Aminu Sharif’s father, which is unconvincing, is superb. It's, moreover, overtly didactic. However, how to entertain and moralise at the same time has always been a question Kannywood filmmakers struggle to answer.

9.     Kawayen Amarya
Produced by 2 Effect Empire and directed by its co-founder, Yakubu Muhammad, Kawayen Amarya is typical of their film: glitzy, an all-star cast and dramatic. The film revolves around a wealthy family of one Alhaji Abdulsalam who has three wives. Fearing that he might not see his child, he adopted one. Later on, his wives conceived and each gets a son. His first wife (Saratu Gidado aka Daso) always brags that her father is the source of Alhaji’s wealth. Thus he should treat her and her son with a preference. The sons (Ali Nuhu, Sani Danja and Yakubu Muhammad) get married on the same day. As the film’s title suggests, so much intriguing drama ensues during and after the marriage ceremony, mainly caused by the brides’ female friends.

Although the movie is meant to be a comedy, it ends in a serious, moralistic note. Its most significant shortfall is sound, the ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement]. Often, the dialogues are not lip-synching well. Moreover, Daso goes scot-free with two murders; etc. Nonetheless, it’s a delight watching it.

10.  Li’ani
Directed by Ali Gumzak, Li’ani tells the story of one Alhaji Sunusi (Rabi’u Rikadawa) who rejects his wife’s pregnancy, which leads them to mutual repudiation (Li’an) at the Shari’ah court. The child, acted by Ali Nuhu, is therefore raised by his mother and the man she married later. However, Alhaji Sunusi loses his fertility to what he fears is God’s punishment, a nemesis, for his ill-treatment of his first wife. He marries eight women, one of whom attempts to murder him, but to no avail. He realises his mistake only when it is too late and cannot change anything.

The film is exceptional for its topic, which is a hot-button one but has not been dealt with previously. Also, both the cast and crew performed very well in a fast-paced and realistic manner. There is no song and dance routine. The subplot is minimal and in line with the film’s primary theme. 

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