For over two decades of the existence of the Hausa movie industry, known today as Kannywood, a series of developments have been recorded, some of which were positive while some were negative.
History has shown that Kano has been the most populous state in Nigeria and a regional nerve centre of commerce for several decades. It was believed that the state influences what goes on in other northern states and beyond, binding other Hausa speaking communities as far as other West African countries.
The Kannywood Hausa film industry, named after the state, is a bastion of Hausa- speaking people across Africa. It is also on record that due to the industry’s popularity, some of its actors, now highly famous and successful, could not speak the major language of the industry before joining. They learned it on the job.
To ensure control and conformity to the norms and values of Hausa people, the Kano State Government established a censorship board in March 2001 to regulate the filmmaking industry and other entertainment outlets. In trying to sustain itself, the industry, amidst a serious piracy crisis, went through various transformations, from video cassettes to CD, DVD and cinema.
It was reliably gathered that with the coming of satellite television stations, specifically Farin Wata, Arewa24 and few others, the Hausa film industry began to witness a serious setback in its market, no thanks to piracy as well. There was also the issue of Hausa translated Indian films, which gradually affected the consumption of films produced by Kannywood.
With the proliferation of the Hausa satellite television stations, the industry tried to key-in into the new trend by going into drama series production and gradually the conventional Hausa film industry became absolute. Films on DVD were stopped and the Hausa film market at Kofar Wambai died completely, forcing operators of the market to look for other alternatives.
It was also gathered that when it became clear that not all producers could produce a television series for the satellite stations, operators began to look for other alternatives that would sustain the industry and thousands of youths that earned a living through Kannywood.
It was also reported that an attempt to revive and redefine cinema in Kano State, the home of Kannywood, was made. The Filmhouse Cinema Limited opened in 2015 at Ado Bayero Mall and signed Ali Nuhu as its brand ambassador. This opened the eyes of the people, especially the youth, towards the realisation that cinema is a place for entertainment and fun and not hooliganism, drug peddling, and other social deviations associated with it in the past. Moreover, Hausa films were encouraged to participate in the revival of cinemas in the state but unfortunately, some factors began to work against the attempt. Such factors include the issues of Kannywood films barely making it to the big screen of the new cinema for two primary reasons. One is that most of the movies do not have the appropriate aspect ratio for the big screen. In other words, they were mostly shot with less sophisticated cameras; therefore, their picture quality falls short of the projector’s dimension.
Another factor is that the stories are mostly not fit for theatre viewing. Genres like action, horror and epic that are cinemagoers’ favourites are very rare in Kannywood as making them require a bigger budget, more experienced crew and professionalism, coupled with expensive postproduction work.
The second problem is the unattractive deals concluded with the managers of the cinema. It was alleged that a filmmaker has to give half of what his movie generates over the first viewing week. This, practically, scares the embattled filmmakers further away as the business is already risky.
However, due to such issues, promising films like Juyin Sarauta, Gwaska Returns and Sadauki couldn’t make it to the public’s doorsteps, many months after their cinema premiering.
According to a Kannywood analyst, Ahmad Aminu, some operators of the industry were of the view that one of the major reasons behind the industry’s predicaments was the fact that Kannywood can’t compete with other industries, partly because of the challenge of funding.
“They believe that this in turn results in poor acting due to unprofessionalism, lack of good scripts and technical know-how on modern production, and low funds for promotion. These impediments lead to lower quality movies, which are often poorly directed and edited.
For several years, Kannywood operators have been calling on the northern elites and the region’s business communities to, as a matter of urgency, invest in the sector, not only to gain decent returns on investment but also to revitalise and turn it into a medium where the culture and rich history of the region can be showcased,” he said.
However, in the quest for an alternative, operators of the Hausa film industry discovered YouTube. Through this platform, the Kannywood film industry was able to be on its feet again. Actors and actresses began to have roles, and the usual bottlenecks of the Kano State Censorship Board were minimised.
Many forgotten artists were revived and got roles. Virtually every producer has his or her own YouTube channel, and fans of the industry were given varieties of films to select and watch via their phones. Even at that, the issue of illegal commercial downloading set in again.
According to a Kannywood actor, Mato Yakubu, popularly known as Malam Nata’ala, in Dadin Kowa television series, the adoption of YouTube is what saved the industry.
“It is a good development because it provides the easiest platform for actors to be popular and producers to achieve success. Before now, when we were using video cassettes, the process was very rigorous and it involved a lot of expenses, unlike now that everything has turned digital.
“Before the advent of YouTube, most of us were busy considering the way out for ourselves because the industry wasn’t moving at all,” he revealed.
It was, however, revealed that most of the Hausa films currently making waves are YouTube-based, such as Izzar So, Haram, Mahaifi, Damben So, Aduniya , Burin Zuciya, Wuf, among others.
It was also revealed that many actors and actresses are now fully engaged and new faces have also emerged due to the discovery of YouTube by Kannywood. Artists like Aisha Izzar So, Adam Abdullahi Adam, also known as Dady Hikima, among others, are now the talk-of-the-town in Kanywood. These artists were not popular during the conventional Kannywood era, but presently, they are hot cakes in the industry.