Last night at the British Council, Kano, I attended the premiere of "Jere", a 10-minute Hausa movie made by Ahmad Abubakar (a.k.a. Dr), the Group Owner of the kanowritersforum on Yahoogroups. The movie was made as part of the Connecting Futures programme. "Jere" means decorations (of a bride's room), a practice to which women attach so much importance. In the movie, the heroine Larai (Maryam Booth, daughter of the renown Hausa actress Zainab Booth), is forced to engage in "talla" (hawking of assorted wares) by her mother in order to make enough for the mother to buy "jere" materials for the girl when her marriage comes. A rather paedophilic man deceives the girl with gifts and succeeds in having carnal knowledge of her. The message is on the ills of hawking in Hausa society, which is so rampant. Jere is the metaphor for the rampant greed among poor Hausa mothers, who also respond to societal pressure of impressing others with the amount of decorations they put up for their daughters. I hear that this practice is also widespread among other non-Hausa African women.
It is amazing that so much can be put into so short a movie. The crowd was very appreciative of the movie. Unfortunately for me, however, I arrived rather late, so I was able to watch only about half of the movie. From what I saw on the screen (and heard during the interactive session) I have no qualms about Dr Ahmad and Co.'s achievements. The comments made by members of the audience were revealing; they filled the gaps for me.
The filmmakers made frenetic efforts to defend themselves from the charges some members of the audience made regarding the theme (which Prof Abdalla said was an old one) and the technical aspects. My thinking is that the makers of "Jere" should take the comments in their stride and endeavour to sift the grains from the chaff; meaning they should not take offence at any of the views expressed there.
I have also met the young actresses who led the cast. Maryam Booth, a teenager, is bound to excel in future if given challenging roles such as this one. The pity is that she may be mired in the Indian copycat melodramas we call Hausa movies, where she has been acting occasionally in supportive roles.
There is also the role of "short" films in Hausa land. Will they make any difference? What impact will they make on the larger movie industry? The people behind "Jere" have benefited from the British Council intervention, which brought experts from UK like Ian Masters (who visited me at my office in Kaduna when he came to Nigeria in 1996), so they have a better chance of influencing others in the industry. Can they? They are not full-time filmmakers like Ali Nuhu and co., who are basically in it for the money. But they will definitely constitute a small group of professional filmmakers producing "art films" for the more critical and appreciative audience (like me!).
I doff my hat to the director of "Jere." He should aim higher. Wish him good luck.