Thursday, 26 April 2007

Carmen Cameo

I have finally viewed a video clip portraying Talatu (the American PhD student in the Department of African Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin, Madison) in the Hausa comedy 'Ibro P-Square'. It was sent to me by Prof Abdalla Uba Adamu, who called it "Carmen Cameo." I couldn't laugh after watching it. My honest view is that it is just crap. It reflects just the kind of embarrassing stuff our Hausa home video merchants are churning out. The fact that Talatu, a white young woman, and an academic for that matter, agreed to feature in those videos was a golden opportunity for the boys to work hard and bring out agreeble, mature home videos based on great storylines. (Still, I think featuring Talatu in all those Hausa video, including '419' part 2, was exploitative. I know she didn't do it for money; she must have simply regarded it as fun; or she was trying to behave like the Romans while in Rome).

Nonetheless, a more imaginative film industry would have seized the unique opportunity presented by Talatu and come up with an explosively enchanting movie tackling/depicting a genuine African issue (e.g. clash of cultures, race relations, etc etc) that would appeal to viewers worldwide. And Talatu could have even benefited financially from it since she had conquered all inhibitions and offered to appear in the movies. I imagine her being handled by Suleiman Cisse, the award-winning Burkinabe director of 'Yaaba.' But our boys have simply wasted the effort. Talatu cannot be proud of this kind of portrayal; she wouldn't want it to be on youtube or anywhere else. Thank God it will remain in Bata and Wambai Market stalls only, from where a handful viewers may buy it and watch at home.

It is annoying. I hope she will not do it again unless she has gone through the movie script (or helped create one) and become convinced about its worthiness. Talatu should not be wasting herself (yes, herself, since the whole of her is depicted) unless the outcome is something even she would be proud of.


Anonymous said...

ai, i was trying to maintain some blog anonymity but i think my cover has been blown several times over. {-; thanks for your review. i appreciate it. the "performances" were done cheerfully and in good fun, (although the p-square one was unplanned and at the last minute [I was grabbed from my a daidai ta sahu at the end of a long day of running errands],--and not at all my proudest or most agreeable hour.) i am not a trained actress, and my biggest fear was ruining someone's film. so, if it was "always already crap" at least I didn't ruin it....

I agreed to do the 419 part because I thought it was a good opportunity to be a "participant-observer" on a set in a film where it was actually relevant to have a white person appear, as well as a rather fun experience, which it was. When I finally saw the final product, I was a bit disappointed because the plot seemed much more aimless than the first 419--and the song and dance routine much less interesting than the one in the first 419. I thought the scenes I was in were interesting while I was acting them, although when I watched it, I cringed at moments of my own bad acting. (like I said... not a trained actress...) Don Allah, don annabi, kar ku sa shi a kan youtube.

That said, I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the filmmakers and see how things were done; it's been very helpful for my own research to understand, first hand, how things operate on a video-film set. I especially got a sense of the contraints, time and resource-wise, that are placed on filmmakers. I tried to make it fairly clear that when I returned, if anyone wanted me to do anything else of the sort, they would need to give me a very clear idea of the script and enough time to prepare myself and to practice doing what needed to be done (in part just so that I won't ruin their film). I stand by that. If anyone wants to use me, that's fine. i actually did enjoy the process a great deal, but I do want to know what I'm doing first--and have some sort of aesthetic judgment of what i will be a part of, as well as a little more actual direction and "training."

As for my own analysis of Hausa films: I'm not one who insists that filmmakers must go to film schools--indeed some of the most fascinating francophone african filmmakers [I'm thinking particularly of Adama Drabo who directed Taafe Fanga] were self taught and learned on the sets of other films. Neither do I think that Hausa film aesthetics will necessarily mirror western film aesthetics. Nor do I think that Hausa films need to deal soley with "development issues" or "realistic" themes. I love the variety I've seen so far in Hausa films, and I respect and admire the way many of the stories have been put together. I'm especially impressed with the way the song and dance routines, when they are well done, work within the story. I was just sorry that 419-2 seemed rather slapped together in the end--because I think that the premise of the plot is a hilarious one, and one that, at the time, I thought was quite fun to be a part of.

Umar Bello said...

First,I wish to commend Mallam Sheme for this educative and illuminating blog which
gives us nuggets of very important news for free! It is interesting to find out that Talatu has participated in an Ibro movie. I would certainly like to have a copy of the movie inspite of its bad billing by Sheme. Weighing the two commentaries together, i.e. that of Talatu and Sheme, I beleive the movie would just be in a middle point. Sheme has looked at it purely from an aesthetic and intellectual viewpoint but the Ibros of Kannywood do not produce their films for the consumption of the Shemes, they would have since been edged out of the market. They produce largely for an audience which has sustained the industry and who just find those case-and-slap films very entertaining and not caring a hoot about the need for culture-sensitivity with which the intellectual elite is preoccupied.

But that does not mean that they shouldn't improve their tools and cash in on opportunities like one uniquely presented by Talatu and make their films genereally more appealing to both audiences, the intellectual and the non-intellectual.

Umar Bello

Anonymous said...

Malam Umar,

I join you in thanking Malam Sheme for an excellent and thought-provoking blog, although I'm currently squirming at being the subject of his latest post!

I agree with you that Ibro films are enjoyable, and there is something to be said for producing films to entertain the people "on the ground." I too have laughed my way through Ibro-films without really caring about the aesthetic qualities. I don't think anyone is trying to pretend that Ibro films are High Art, although the sheer (roll-on-the-ground-laughing) funniness of at least a few of them may make them last longer than some think. On the other hand, I do agree with Malam Sheme that there is also a place for more carefully thought out films as well.

I have only seen a brief clip from this one, so i don't know if the whole film is funny or not. However, please don't buy it just because I'm in it. My appearence is only about one minute long--and is a particularly bad last-minute performance (in which I did not project) after a long and tiring day of running errands... kunya nake ji. Stand forewarned...
{-; talatu