Umar Sani Labaran, popularly known as Umar Gombe, is an actor, director, and producer who has starred in over a one hundred movies and a number of television and comedy shows.
He has won and been nominated as Best Supporting Actor on several occasions. In this interview, he talks about Kannywood’s shortcomings, what drew him to the industry, and more. Excerpts:
Weekend Magazine: What attracted you to the film industry?
Umar Gombe: I was influenced by the social problems happening in our communities. I started my acting career with late veteran Kannywood director Tijjani Ibraheem and later joined Ishaq Sidi Ishaq who taught me scriptwriting and directing. He gave me books on both fields to read. I later assisted him as production manager and assistant director.
Films I featured in include ‘Kwalla,’ ‘Lambar Girma,’ ‘Sa’in Sa,’ ‘Noor,’ ‘Lissafi,’ ‘Iko’ and more recent ones like ‘Mati A Zazzau,’ ‘Wakili,’ ‘Hauwa Kulu’ among others. I have appeared in over a hundred films, including Nollywood films like ‘Tenant of the House.’
WM: Recently the industry has slowed down. How do you feel about this?
Gombe: What is happening is due to the pandemic. Everything will return to normal after covid-19. However, even before the pandemic we had issues that has made clear that we are not practicing film making the way it should be done.
There is a need for operators of the industry to acquire more technical knowledge on film making or else we will continue to be left behind. Our inability to apply modern knowledge is crippling the industry’s market. It makes it difficult for investors to come forward. Who do you think will be willing to invest in a venture that can’t guarantee any profit?
WM: How would you compare Kannywood and Nollywood in terms of development?
Gombe: For me the issue is not about making a comparism. It is all about getting support from corporate bodies and government at various levels. Nollywood is recognized by corporate organizations and a sizeable number of government agencies, unlike Kannywood where individual investors have to do everything alone.
I am sure that if Kannywood were given the same opportunity like Nollywood I am optimistic that we would have been far above any movie industry in Africa. Look at what we have attained without support. What do you think the industry would have attained had it been the industry has got the needed support?
WM: ‘Mati a Zazzau’ is arguably one of the best Hausa comedy films in recent times. What would you say makes it stand out?
Gombe: ‘Mati a Zazzau’ was produced by Rahama Sadau and Sadiq Sani Sadiq. For me, what really makes it different is the storyline, cast, director and equipment used. I was casted in the film, not because I am a friend to the producers, but because they believe in my ability to give them what they want.
A lot of money has been committed to the film. Also, one of the finest Nigerian female singers, Dij’a, made her debut in the film as an actress. I must confess that she inspired many people by the humility she exhibited throughout the shooting of that film.
WM: What do you do when you are not acting?
Gombe: I love photography, culture, watching films and travelling.
WM: What is your favorite quote?
Gombe: My favorite quote is “Of all the inventions for mass communication, pictures speak the universally accepted language.” This is from Walt Disney and it says a lot of things to me.