Kannywood is currently in a dilemma. The COVID-19 epidemic has slowed down most business activities— or in some cases shut them down entirely—Kannywood inclusive. As a result, businesses have to find smart ways to ensure they survive. But the last thing Kannywood needs is another obstacle to its growing challenges. Kannywood is already facing a lot of challenges. and the last thing it needs is another one on its plate. However, it seems to thrive in these hard times. Already, numerous series have been produced and posted on Youtube, in the absence of movies.
The Kannywood industry —so named after Hollywood in Los Angeles— has been in existence for perhaps over three decades. Even though veteran actors like Kasimu Yero and Usman Baba Pategi have pioneered Hausa comedy, it wasn’t until the early 1990s when the movies became commercially successful and Kannywood as an industry was born. While much has been said of its role in contributing to moral decadence in recent years, one has to give it to them for their role in promoting cultural integration, creation of jobs (both direct and indirect), generation of revenue and its role in the advancement of Hausa language and its culture. I won’t be wrong when I say, it is perhaps the widest means of propagating the culture and people of the northern region.
One, therefore, finds it appalling that despite the massive goodwill placed on it by the people, it hasn’t done much on selling the region or used as a means of telling history, lending credence to the claim that it only contributes to the immorality in the region. While Nollywood, its parent branch domiciled in the southern region of the country is years ahead and not only contributes handsomely to the local economy but rakes in millions in the box office perhaps due to their much stellar performances, marvelous directing and storylines. The same cannot be said of Kannywood which is still fixated on poorly written scripts and half-baked love stories while neglecting important contemporary issues. One can’t even begin to compare movies of nowadays to cult classics from the past despite great cinematographic and technological advancements. But this is hardly Kannywood’s fault, as it is facing enormous challenges.
Challenges Facing Kannywood
Kannywood can’t compete with other industries partly because of the challenge of funding. This in turn results in poor acting, lack of good scripts and producing, and low funds for the film’s promotion. They, therefore, resort to lower quality movies which are often poorly directed and edited. Until when investors (angel or not) decide to start investing in our local home-grown movies, the films are bound to be poorly received. The northern elites should as a matter of urgency invest in this sector not only to gain decent returns on investment but also to revitalize and turn it into a medium where the culture and rich history of the region can be showcased. This will also no doubt attract investors into the region.
The issue of creativity is another challenge the industry is facing. Let’s face it, there are not enough ideas to go round. While the rest of the world industries have realized this early on and are now focusing on remakes of popular movies; biopics, comics and book adaptations, true-life incidents, historical fiction, sports, and contemporary issues, the industry has been left to catch on. It is hard to fathom why, despite all our popular folklore of Gizo da ƙoƙi, historical topics like that of Bayajjida, famous novels like Magana Jari Ce, important personalities like the late Sardauna or contemporary issues like almajiranci or the Boko Haram menace, few of these have been turned into moving pictures. If anything, they have resorted to plagiarizing of other films without crediting the source. This is such a poor move for an industry battling copyright theft and piracy.
Speaking of piracy, this is another challenge Kannywood is facing. Other countries have since moved to the cinematic era where films are shown in a cinema first before being released in digital forms. The industry is yet to completely adopt this, perhaps due to the presence of few cinemas in the region or the ultraconservative nature of the people coupled with the religious factor. Either way, the industry should find a way of reducing dependence on sales of DVDs and start focusing on releasing them online and charge subscription fees, and also partner with other brands for advertising. The tradition of premiering a movie to a select target before being released to the public should also be embraced, as it will generate profit and also provide an opportunity for movie critics. The review industry, unlike in advanced countries is moribund and just growing. Reviewers and critics should be encouraged, as this will not only produce better content but also make the movies to be taken seriously.
While much entertainment industries have received support from their governments in the form of grants, enabling laws, and patronage. Kannywood hasn’t been so lucky as the reverse has been the case. Its key players are constant subjects to persecution and difficult censorship rules. On the national scene too, they have not been so lucky. When the former president conferred on some entertainment industry giant’s national honors, not a single person from Kannywood was included. One would have thought, judging by the enthusiastic support and campaigns it rendered for the present Federal Government, would perhaps award some players—even if posthumously—, or at least aid in combatting some of its problems. Alas, this has not been the case. All they got was an ill-advised film village project which was destined to fail from the start.
The public, which is the bulk consumer of the movies —especially in Kano needs to do their part through consuming non-pirated movies, changing their perception about the actors and major players of the industry as well as reviewing the movies and showcasing them both locally and abroad.
Despite what others might think, the Kannywood industry is here to stay. We might as well use it to stimulate the economy of the North’s commercial hub and that of the entire region and in the process reduce unemployment, create jobs both direct and indirect as well as tackle poverty which is the bane of all our problems. It is also clear the industry needs an infusion of fresh ideas if it were to thrive in a 21st-century world. The movies should also be used to propagate the rich culture, history, beliefs, and traditions of the region as well as touching on critical aspects of our contemporary lives. This epidemic may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the industry as it might well use the opportunity to set its house in order.
While wishing to be on par with Hollywood or Bollywood might be far fetched, being on the same level as its sister industry Nollywood is at least achievable. But this too is suddenly becoming a mirage. Nollywood has been landing international deals including Netflix deals, invitations to attend Hollywood premiere, and selection of its players as members of the 2020 class of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Let’s hope Kannywood can weather its challenges and transition into a world-class media industry.