(120): Top 10 Kannywood Films of 2019


Muhsin Ibrahim

University of Cologne

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 2019.

The Hausa film industry alias Kannywood is still alive and, well, kicking. Perhaps known to many people, the industry’s survival is against many odds. Now and again, Kannywood is caught up in scandals. Prominent among them this year include the way politics divided it and brought sharp disunity among its members. Then, two leading actresses fought and the clip of the fight went viral; the arrest of a celebrated director, the sartorial choice of two more actresses invited them condemnations, insults and curses, among other incidents.
Copyright: @officialkannywood

Admittedly, I did not watch some films that might be among the top 10 of 2019. I don’t live in Nigeria to go to the only functional cinema in Kano where Kannywood films are premiered. Therefore, the following movies are but among the best of the year. Also, the numbering is, in no way, hierarchical.

1) Doya da Manja

It’s one of its kind in Kannywood. It brings about Hausa and Yoruba, the two of the three major Nigerian ethnic groups into contact and contract through marriage. Hafsa Idris, as a Yoruba lady in the film, falls in love with Aminu Sharif Momoh, a Hausa police officer, who saves her from some criminals. The two face a lot of challenges from both their families due to their cultural differences. However, they ultimately overcome all the problems, get married and live happily ever after. 

It deserves mentioning for its high-pitched drama, the excellent delivery of its actors, especially Hafsat Idris whose accented Hausa equals to a non-native speaker. The thematic focus of the film is also worthy of commendation as it attempts to foster understanding and mutual respect between the two ethnic groups. However, it’s unnecessarily lengthy and quite over-dramatized.

2) Hauwa Kulu

The eponymous film tells the story of a rape victim who survives and becomes an incorruptible judge but only to be confronted with a case that opens her old wounds and almost forces her to compromise. Hajara Usman saves Hauwa Kulu (acted by Hassana Muhammad and Hadiza Gabon) and supports her to build a career after being defiled by the philogynist village head of their village. She gets her married to her only son, Ali Nuhu, with whom they have a child. The child rapes their housemaid, and the case is brought to Hauwa’s court.

The film is very topical and daring and shall provoke action among its audience. I rate it high for its subject matter, cinematography and the performance of most of its actors. The film could, nonetheless, be much better if some details are considered such as the characterisation of young Gabon as a mother of a grown-up guy, her quest for justice as a rape victim, etc. It’s directed by Ali Nuhu and produced by Bashir Maishadda.

3) Tsalle Daya

Kannywood filmmakers are gradually getting more realistic and audacious in their choice of topics. Tsalle Daya is such a bold production about the spate of kidnapping in Nigeria. Seldom, people fake their abduction or that of their loved ones to extort money from others. Here, Jamila Nagudu arranges a kidnap of her child to wring cash from her husband, Ali Nuhu. During the police investigation, some disturbing facts about the husband are discovered. Eventually and shockingly enough, the child is never saved.

The topic is contemporary, and it takes bravery to film it. Moreover, the movie is very captivating. The character of Nagudu, Teema Yola, Daso and the rest delivered their lines in a fascinating manner. The film’s song, exciting as it might be, is quite intrusive and unneeded.

4) Yanayi

The daring yet topical film revolves around the life of a nymph, Hajiya Shafa'atu (Zainab Indomie) whose aged husband (Ali Nuhu) dies in his tedious effort to satisfy her. She soon afterwards becomes a “sugar mummy” who deceives several, unsuspecting young men, including her friend’s brother and son-in-law to-be to quench her desire. Her escapade hits a hard rock in the end, which leads to her downfall.

The film is quite didactic by warning against being or engaging “sugar mummy”. Nevertheless, in its effort to do justice to the racy issue, the film is somewhat vulgar. Thus, using more euphemism and symbolic representation might help out here. Sanusi Oscar 442 directed it while Naziru Dan Hajiya is its producer.

5)    Namijin Kishi

The film tells the story of Habibu (Sadiq Sani Sadiq), an extremely jealous man who overprotects his beautiful, tolerant wife, Fa'iza (Hafsat Idris) away from virtually everyone other than him. The marriage could not last long, for he irrevocably divorces her. However, Habibu truly loves Fa'iza. Therefore, he almost raves mad and begins doing the unthinkable to bring her back. While his efforts fail, he attempts to dissuade her from remarrying. In the end, he learns his lesson the hardest way and repents.
Ali Gumzak, the film’s director, did a great job alongside the writer-turned-producer, Yakubu M. Kumo. It’s a comedy with a serious thematic preoccupation. This makes it poignant. Doubtless, versatile as Sadiq Sani is, he overdramatises his lines in quite a few scenes. Also, the topic should have been treated with more nuances due to its significance in Islam and marriage, especially in northern Nigeria, where the rate of divorce is high.
6)    Jidda
The eponymous film tells the story of two schoolmates, Salma and Jidda. While the former is from a wealthy background, the latter comes from a low-income family. The two friends had an argument during which Jidda pronounced that she would kill Salma. Jidda’s friend is found dead the next day. Thus, the police arrest Jidda on suspicion for the murder. She is found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Soon afterwards, her boyfriend-cum-lawyer, Ibrahim Maishunku digs deeper and discovers that Jidda’s friend was actually killed by her uncle whom she caught sleeping with her mother whenever her father is not around.

Directed by Ali Gumzak and produced by Alhaji Sheshe, Jidda made it to the list for several reasons. It is suspenseful and captivating as its resolution remained hidden until the end. Also, the cinematography, costume and the overall performance of the actors are impressive. However, there is a repetition of some scenes and dialogues.

7. Manyan Gobe        

Thematically, Manyan Gobe is a unique film. It is about polio disease. A barely educated man (Al-Amin Buhari) opposes everything related to modernity, including polio vaccination. He also forbids his wife (Jamila Nagudu) from taking any medication, birth control pills, etc. He alleges that anything like that is anti-Islamic. In the end, the couple lose their child and their only surviving daughter, Maryam, loses her legs to polio. To add insult to injury, he divorces Jamila. Through support from Muhammadu Sunusi Foundation, the physically-challenged girl Maryam harnesses her exceptional brilliance.

Produced by Muhammad Nata’ala and directed by Ali Gumzak, the film is a socio-cultural critique of several misconceptions such as apprehension towards polio vaccine. It also promotes education, especially that of the girl-child, which is sadly neglected by many parents and guardians.

8. Madubin Gobe

The film, like any other, is fictional but full of lessons. Ibrahim Mandawari, a wealthy man, shockingly tells his family that all that he possesses is actually not his own. He hands over all his wealth, including this residence to an unknown, poor man (acted by Shehu Hassan Kano), hitherto lived in a mud house in a remote village. Everything changes so quickly. The previously poverty-stricken Shehu and his wife become rude, dishonest, spendthrift and whatnot. They also fail a series of tests by their benefactor through one of his employees. Therefore, he returns and reclaims his wealth.

The director and the producer of the films are Sulaiman Bello Eazy and Kabiru A. Yako, respectively. The film deserves commendation for its exposition of how forgetful and wicked humans could be. It’s a typical case of “Allah ya san halin jaki da bai yi shi da kaho ba” [Allah knows the character of the donkey for not creating it with horns]. However, the movie is unnecessarily too long while the performance of some actors, besides the veteran ones, is below average.

9. Dawood

As the title suggests, the film revolves around the character of Dawood (Ali Nuhu), a well-to-do, supportive and respected man in his community. He has a daughter, Bilkisu Shema, whose close friend and course mate, Rahama Nijer, faces financial difficulties. As soon as he hears about that from his daughter, he offers to assist. He pays for her school fees and does so much more for the poor girl and her parents. That endears him to Rahama. Thus, when she is asked to bring up a man for marriage, she shyly, but assuredly, mentions his name. His wife, the late Hauwa Maina and her daughter accept her as co-wife and step-mother, respectively.

As a famous saying goes, nothing endears one to another more than generosity. Produced by Abdulaziz Dansmall and Directed by Sunusi Oscar 442, Dawood demonstrates this saying. The story is short, and, perhaps, somehow implausible. However, it carries a valuable lesson. All the cast performed impressively.

10. Barazana

The multiple-award winning film is about brigandage, kidnapping and armed robbery and the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to curtail such crimes and bring the culprit to justice. Apparently, the NPF cooperated with and supported the filmmakers during its production – and beyond. The usage of the police buildings, vehicles, uniforms and many other props was, to an extent, like never seen before and highly impressive. This gives the film a unique look, striking cinematography and convincing rendition. It’s produced by TY Shaba, who is also in one of the leading roles in the film, and directed by Muhammad Bashir Qaya.


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