Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Zazzabi: the Fever

Sani Danja Mansura Isa and Ibrahim Maishunku
(can't get the formatting to work to put captions under pictures--I am so useless at this...)

Zazzabi: Fever
Produced by Auwalu Madaki
Directed by S.I. Belaz
Sa'a Entertainment, Kano, 2005
Starring: Mansura Isa, Sani Danja, Ibrahim Maishunku, Nura Imam, Shehu Hassan Kano, etc.

A doctor who has quarrelled with his eldest son and kicked him out of the house. The doctor's beautiful university-educated daughter, who attracts the attentions of two handsome young men. The spurned son who becomes a policeman. An AIDS test that comes out positive. A murder by strangulation. A dedicated investigator who interviews everyone involved. And a twist at the end that I did not expect.

And a rather amazing song and dance number full of double-entendre:
Part of the chorus that I can type fast enough to catch, with my very bad translation:
Zazzabi ciwo mai zafi, zazzabi ciwo mai zafi
Fever so hot, Fever so hot
Ciwon so, ciwon kauna, zazzabi shi ne a jikina.
Disease of love, disease of passion, it is what is in my body
Zazzabi ya zo jikina, Zazzabi ciwo mai zafi, ciwon so, ciwon kauna, zazzabi shi ne a jikina.
Fever has come to my body, Fever so hot, Disease of love, disease of passion, Fever is what is in my body.

The horribly sad and powerful thing that lingers after all the suspense is over is that in a very non-NGO sponsored way, this film raises questions about this fever that twists paths of love into paths of death. And the fever that overcomes those who are passionately in love can in another context be read as a fever that both come out of passion and makes consumation of future passions impossible. There are no great explanations of how the disease is acquired (although there are hints in one flashback), how it can be prevented, or how one should treat those with it, or oneself if one has it. The filmmakers seem to assume the audience will know all that--which they probably do. Departing from other representations of the disease that I've seen portrayed in Hausa film, the only death in this film is a murder, not a death via AIDS. There are no long suffering scenes, ending in a rattle the throat and a dropped hand. The filmmakers provide no answers, only "what ifs" and leave us with a tremble in a voice, a stricken face, as the chorus "Zazzabi, ciwo mai zafi, Ciwon so, ciwon kauna, zazzabi shi ne a jikina" returns and the credits roll.


Texter said...

Hmm, sounds really interesting. I wonder, though, is it any passion that leads to this tragic end, or only certain types of passion, certain instances, and then how are those instances defined? What I mean is, are certain kinds of love judged appropriate and sanctioned? And does love=passion or am I conflating two different things? (still wish I learned Hausa, although poking through the Hausa grammar book helps!)

Talatu-Carmen said...

You're right that "so" and "kauna" both mean "love" with a great many variable meanings depending on context, and perhaps "passion" wasn't the best translation. I was trying to stick with the idea of a "fever." And saying "fever of affection" didn't sound quite right. That's part of the danger of posting at 2:30 in the morning after just finishing watching something--you don't necessarily think the whole thing through.

Also, this idea of the sanctioned passion verses the unsanctioned passion is what I find fascinating. I'm very interested in looking at films about HIV that don't necessarily have some NGO-sponsored stamp of approval. What this means, though,--and the reason I am kind of moving away from the whole HIV thing, although I've got to write a conference paper on it before I can--is that how HIV (in those non-NGO films) is symbolically used is not necessarily the way I would use it, if I were wanting to make a film sensitive to those living with the disease. Ie. the NGO-sponsored films are generally more sensitive, but they are also more formulaic and (sorry...) boring. But if I pursue the stuff that reflects the social imagination of what HIV is, then I worry that I am being insensitive to the needs and desires of the millions of people living with the disease. My friend who is doing her PhD in anthropology has asked women living with HIV what they think of media representations, and they are generally annoyed about how the disease is often conflated with prostitution and immediate death. They did not get the disease through prostitution, they say, and look, they are still living and they still have hopes and dreams of getting married and having children. So there is definitely a disjunction between the fiction and the reality.

The interesting thing about this film is that like I said in the earlier post, it did not actually go into a whole lot of details about HIV--the story was more about the murder mystery etc.--but then it came back to the HIV in the end--about fears of exposing hidden places. And I do find that aspect fascinating, especially combined with the song--the idea that one kind of fever or disease can complicate/lead to/prevent/is inextricably linked to the other kind of fever or disease. Although the film does not dwell on the how, whats, and wheres of HIV education, it is implied that one of the characters got HIV by picking up a "woman of loose morals." This idea of the hidden and forbidden sin invading previously (wai) "protected" domestic spaces is related, in my formulation, to the role of television in the home etc. So, my new interest, which overlaps in many ways with the old, is how the video-film has become threatening to the established social order because the alternate realm, previously (wai) kept safely outside of the home, now penetrates the home through the television. (Which in some ways is what HIV [or at least HIV as imagined] also does.)

I probably should just write a summary of this film to be clearer of what I'm talking about, but then I didn't want to ruin the ending for some person browsing for Hausa movies online. I have heard from several people who have found my blog while doing that.

I think I might end up using this film for at least part of the conference paper, so when I've thought it through a little more, I'll try to post something else on it. I probably need to watch it a few more times to get the nuances. I was surprised how much of the dialogue I understood last night, but I still didn't catch all of the words.

Texter said...

Thanks for the clarification... yeah, I just wondered who exactly was "infected" with HIV/AIDS and what the narrative implied about who is vulnerable to it etc. So, the woman character did not end up with HIV? Hmm. It was one of the men if I understand you correctly.
Anyway, the TV / media angle sounds very promising. I think there is a way in which you do have to open to all ways of seeing and interpretive possibilities before censoring what is appropriate or conforming to current sensitivities. That is not to say that in your analysis you can note and draw attention to hegemonic meanigns and what those narratives leave out or exclude or demonize and devalue.
I'm teaching a unit on AIDS and metaphor... it starts next week. I'll let you know how it goes...

Talatu-Carmen said...

oh fascinating! no wonder you are interested in this issue. What texts will you be teaching? They would be really useful for me to know as I think about this.

And SPOILER ALERT for anyone else reading this, who plans to see the film. Basically what happens is that the suitor of the girl at the beginning of the movie, finds out that he is HIV+ (from the father of the girl who is a doctor). He remembers a time that he picked up a karuwa (prostitute) and realized he must have gotten it then. He does not tell the girl, but she ends up falling in love with someone else anyway. When the second man comes to her house to meet her mother (the father is not there), he sees a picture of her father, and asks if that is her father. She says yes. Not long after, the girl's father is murdered at his office. There is an investigation, and there are all sorts of motives for the murder (the son who has been disinherited, the first boyfriend who found out he had HIV, etc.) Finally, it is discovered that it is actually the second boyfriend who has murdered the father. He confesses that the father, in his role as doctor, had told him he had tested positive for HIV. He knew that although the doctor had been sympathetic and supportive when he told him he wanted to marry, the doctor would not be that way if he knew it was his daughter that the man wanted to marry.

After some time and much grieving, the girl goes back to the original boyfriend. He tells her that he can't marry her because he has HIV. And the film ends that way.

I found this final scene especially poignant, first because it is very well acted, and second, because it was very similar to something that happened to someone I know. A few years ago, a friend of our family was on the verge of marrying one girl, when they were tested and he found out she had HIV. After much counseling and struggle (initially he said he would marry her anyway) they decided not to marry. Eventually, he met someone else. When they were tested, again the girl was HIV+. That aspect, that sort of piling up, so that HIV becomes this pervasive thing that keeps thwarting hopes and dreams--that hit home...

Part of what makes this interesting is the riff on stereotypes about people with the disease that I've seen in other Nigerian/Hausa texts/films. In at least two other films I've seen (and urban legends I've heard), there is this typed evil charachter with HIV who is determined to have revenge by spreading it to as many people as possible. Here it is complicated a little bit (and made perhaps more realistic) by this charachter who is apparently just in love with a girl (after the fact, one starts wondering why he was pursuing her so vigorously) but whose fears that his secret will be discovered turns him into a murderer similar to the evil charachters in other films who spread the disease around. He is balanced, however, by the other HIV+ charachter who has been moody and conflicted from the time he finds out, and in the end, he tells the girl that he can't marry her. So, although "demonizing" a charachter with HIV as a murderer, is problematic in many ways (on the other hand, there is also danger in focusing just on victimhood all the time), I find this a much more complex representation than I've seen before. (The whole gender dynamic is also very interesting--and I've got to think about it a little bit more--especially since my long term interest on looking at the culture of the video-film industry is caught up in questions of gender)

In the NGO-sponsored Jann Kunne, two charachters with HIV go ahead and get married and have a (HIV-negative) child. When the wife dies, the man marries another woman who is not HIV-positive. He had been engaged to this second woman when he found out he had HIV. She eventually broke up with him on the day of the marraige because she realized she badly wanted a child but did not want to put herself at risk of getting HIV. When his wife dies leaving behind a child, she decides that since there is now a child for her to take care of, she will go ahead and marry him. They are able to practice safe sex until he dies, and she raises the child up to be an HIV/AIDS activist. This portrays a much more positive picture of life available to those living with the disease, and ends with the boy and his HIV poster defiantly heading off, in slow motion, to some sort of good deed/WAR against the disease (set to victorious war-like music) but it does feel slightly didactic. Zazzabi leaves you with much more ambiguous and conflicted feelings, which I ultimately find much more interesting.

Anyway, please do let me know what texts you will be teaching. I haven't read as much on this as I should have.

Texter said...

Wow, that all is very fertile stuff to think about. You're right that the NGO sponsored film is much more didactic (not surprising). But I do find it interesting the way NGO-culture (if I can call it that) permeates the ground in some african spaces - that is to say, ngo culture may in fact influence other forms of culture in spaces where NGOs dominate the scene.. (thinking of sudan). But of course they (NGOs) are not everything and it is great hte way you are exploring how different cultural products are able to negotiate with or diverge from and challenge the NGO dogma. I've been interested (longterm) in thinking about the ways NGOs 'change' what culture means.

Anyway, that film does have an interesting twist. And it is interesting the way one cannot escape HIV in these films.

RE: the "war" -- this relates nicely to a little book I'm using in my class by Susan Sontag called "AIDS and its Metaphors" - if you have not seen it, you should take a look. It is a sort of expansion of her earlier work Illness and its Metaphors which focused on cancer. She talks about the military metaphor of disease. So, I'm having my students read that, and then giving them a choice between a novel by Mpe (South Africa) - Welcome to Our Hillbrow or a nonfiction book by A. Verghese which is a memoir of his doctoring in Tennessee in the 80s when AIDS first came on the scene there. I'll also try to incorporate some excerpts from lectures by S. Lewis on AIDS (you should listen to these - they are about Africa); and I'm consulting some of Cindy Patton's work on AIDS (Globalizing AIDS is one of her most recent books). Mostly, we'll be analyzing discourse and looking for the use of metaphor. Of course these students are first-year, so I have to keep that in mind as I work out the goals for the unit.

It's interesting because I worked with AIDS activist organizations in NY back in the early 90s and so was aware of some of the work done, and it has emerged in my life again as it relates to Africa. So, those are some of the references and readings I've gathered. I know there is countless texts.. any you recommend?

Talatu-Carmen said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I've been meaning to read the Sontag for several years now. I had it out from the library for a while but before I read much, it was recalled. That reminds me that I need to try to get it and read it again. I actually do not have many suggestions because I have not read as much as I should have. But it is really helpful to think these issues through in relation to my observations on what is going on in these films. Thanks!