Friday, June 23, 2006

Ghana/USA match and Abbas Sadiq

This morning when I "hau"-ed an acaba with an elderly driver, I was delighted, and I knew that I was in safe hands. No man with white hair is going to go zooming around a round-about against cross traffic with me. As we meandered through many muddy back roads, I thought, oh, this is great, he's so careful that he's taking all the back roads.... eventually, however, I realized that we were nowhere near Zoo Road. Apparently, and this is the first time I'm hearing this, there are two Zoo Roads in Kano, and he thought I was going to the other one. Eventually, we got to the right place, and I got a nice tour of the back roads of Kano... and felt very safe the whole time... {-; I gave him a little extra money for the extra time...

Yesterday, I hung out in the office of the director Mohammed Balarbe Sango, who has taken it upon himself to make sure I go to plenty of cultural events while I am here. We went to a Sudanese Hausa concert the other night--a lot of Arabic influence. His office is in a business centre where apparently a lot of writers and filmmakers congregate to edit books and films. They were watching the USA-Ghana worldcup match. I surprised everyone by traitorously cheering for Ghana. I like watching football—not really because I’m actually that interested in the game but because I like being with people (especially Nigerians) and hearing all the shouts and arguments and commentary, etc. When they cleared out the front room for the afternoon prayers, I moved into Malam Sango’s office where I started showing a few people some of the photos I had taken with my digital camera of people watching a football match. A guy started talking to me and as soon as I looked up, I knew that he was Abbas Sadiq, who directed and acted in Albashi, the film that I had written my final Modernities paper on and the paper I am hoping to present at this conference in July. (A couple of times I’ve met someone here and thought I had met them before, but it turned out I just knew their face from a film—-fortunately, I have watched Albashi enough times to know instantly who he was). We chatted for a few minutes before I said, “You’re Abbas Sadiq, right?”

Apparently, Albashi was the second film that he directed, and he had created Albashi because of all the problems that he had had with the censorship board with his first film. He had not known all of the things they would look for, so he had used NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) uniforms in the film without getting permission from NYSC etc. So, he used the NYSC song sequence(which he had not been able to use in his first film) in Albashi, after he procured all the necessary permissions. According to him Albashi was a blockbuster, and he used those profits to go on to produce several other films: some of which have yet to be released: Jamhuriya, Gwamnati, and Albashi 2 and 3. I think Jamhuriya is supposed to be a film empowering disabled people. He said he’d get me a copy of his first film and the rest of them, and now I’m thinking it might be interesting to do a comparative study of all of the films—reading them as part of an intertextual “series,” dealing with similar contemporary themes, rather than individual stories (it looks like most of the actors are the same etc.) Of course, I need to see them before I produce such a study, but if Albashi is any indication, these promise to be equally complex.

Abbas Sadiq and Zainab Idris (who is listed as producer on Albashi) are apparently part of the Jos film contigent (which according to Prof. Abdalla Adamu is slightly different from the ethnic Hausa filmmakers because they are more Westernized… and from what Abbas was saying, there do seem to be more direct links between the Jos scene and the Lagos scene.). Someone was working on the jacket covers for Jamhuriya and Gwamnati, but the cd burner on the computer had spoiled. I loaned them my flash disk so they could move the files to a different computer. When they opened the flash disk, we had to dump a few things off so that there would be room and one of the things we had to dump were some MP3 files of songs by Lagos-based musicians P Square, 2Face etc. “Oh, I know them,” Abbas said. Apparently P Square is from Jos too, which I hadn’t known. When Abbas was at University of Jos, he was part of the student council that auditioned entertainers so he met a lot of them, and was also apparently part of a singing group. The major influence on PSquare was Michael Jackson (which I had figured out from listening to their music) and Usher—according to Abbas, the sound is Michael, the look is Usher.

I’m fascinated by this whole creative movement that seems to have been going on in Jos in the late 1990s. Helon Habila and Toni Kan were writers who came out of University of Jos, and apparently (now I’m learning) so were now popular musicians and filmmakers (although not all of them were at the university).

I was able to chat informally with Abbas Sadiq for a few hours while he did several other things, and then we moved upstairs where it was quieter where I recorded a 30 minute interview with him. Hopefully, we can talk some more later, because there were a few things about Albashi I forgot to ask him. My only problem now is that my whole thesis for my paper centred around the fact that the film was (wai) produced by Zainab Idris and was thus representative of new genre through which women could reclaim their own stories. (There are women producers here (who often come up with the idea for the story), but very very few women directors—according to the people I’ve talked to, this is because it is still very hard for women to do things by themselves in this environment—the marketers, etc., won’t deal with them without having a man along.) This followed nicely from Binta S. Mohammed’s claim in “Male Chauvinism: A Major Factor in the Manifestation of Sexism in Hausa Home Videos,” (in Hausa Home Videos: Technology, Economy, and Society, ed. By Adamu, Adamu, and Jibril) that “Women producers formulate policies and control their films, depicting female characters as they see them rather than as male-oriented Hausa societies would want them to be. They portray themselves as dynamic, agile, and strong, traits usually portrayed as masculine in men’s productions” (176). However, when I talked to Abbas, he told me he had come up with the concept, the story, had directed it etc. (and when I went back to look at the credits in the film, sure enough, he is listed both as screenwriter and director), but he had given Zainab Idris production credit because he didn’t want to take credit for everything. I’m, of course, hoping to talk to Zainab Idris to get her take on the story too, but I have no reason to believe that this isn’t mostly Abbas Sadiq’s project. So, this means, that I’ve got to revise the “autor” part of my thesis, but the content of the film stays the same, so it is still a good exploration (even if directed by a man) of the tensions experienced by the woman emerging into the public sphere (unless people want to argue with me that because these are Jos-based practitioners that they don’t “really” represent Hausa culture—I think I can deal pretty easily with an objection like that… I hope…) I was glad to see that my interpretation of the last two songs of the video as Umar’s fantasys (in good visual Bollywood film language) coincided with the directors intent. Many of the Hausa film critics I’ve read, including Abdalla Adamu, dismiss the song and dance sequences as mere money makers which have nothing to do with the story. While this might be the case in some of the films, it is obviously not the case in Albashi or a few of the other films I’ve seen. The song and dance numbers directly contribute to the interpretation of the story.

I forgot to ask Abbas if I could take his photo, so I’m uploading a photo cut out of the jacket cover file that he gave me on my flash disk. (and speak of the devil, just as I was about to upload this, he called. Hopefully, we can meet up for another interview later.)

Mosque time here, so I'm going to stay in the internet cafe until around 3:00, when I'll walk over to Malam Sango's office. I'm delighted with the fast service at this new internet cafe I'm trying.

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