Tuesday, October 23, 2007

3:40am: Why I love Hausa films

It is 3:40am, and I am cutting, cutting, cutting extra words out of a fellowship proposal that is too verbose and too vague, and too BS-y, which is a shame because I know this stuff really well. It's just hard to say when you have to put all the details of research methods, background, argument in 10 pages, when you haven't quite ironed out your dissertation proposal yet.

So, this post is just to say why I love Hausa films. I love Hausa films because I can click on my you tube clips at 3:40am when I am stressed out of my mind and they make me smile. Yes, the editing is corny, and there are mispellings in the subtitles, and the melodrama is sometimes over the top, Yes, they make me laugh here in on my hard chair at 3:45am. But I also love them because there are beautiful compositions, and fast, obsessive, editing, and strong colour motifs that run through the trailers. I love them because the music is so obsessive that I listen to it minimized as I write, and the deep focus shots and the stop motion dances are so mesmerizing that I have to go back and watch the whole thing over again. At 3:46, when I'm stressed because I've overphilosophized my project, I go back to the concrete videos and know I have to keep on, because it is my opportunity to work with artists who make a living from their art. And no matter how denigrated they are, they'll figure out a way to make it work, insha Allah.

No, I don't like censorship, but in some ways, the adaptations people come up with because of censorship makes more creative products. I've been watching early Hollywood pictures that couldn't show violence so came up with creative off-screen sound. I think it will work the same for the Hausa films.

But, oh, I mourn those brilliant song and dances. I hope that the ban on those is lifted--because they encapsulate so much sheer creativity on so many different levels and are at the very heart of what I want to write about.

Because I love it. That's why I'm up at this time, and why I'm in this cold place, stressed out all the time. Because I love it.


Fred said...

Good for you T, that you recognize BS. I've just read a book I really like: Why Business People Speak Like Idiots; it has changed my life. Clarity of language connotes clarity of thought. Who knew?

I've seen a lot of those YouTube clips and I'm afraid I don't share your view of Hausa film as high art. At best, it evokes the same feeling when watching precocious children, cute but easily dismissed.

The movies are mostly without plot and any discernible structure; the pacing is heavy—no drama. It's spectacle for spectacle sake. Well, spectacle for Hausa eyes anyway. The main difference between the other film “industry” (Bollywood) that uses elaborate song and dance sequences is that at least in Bollywood, viewers experience the necessary catharsis of the drama.

There, dance and song are expertly blended into the story and are causative and reactive parts of the whole. Thus apish, Hausa song and dance seem oddly spontaneous, as if to bedazzle the audience while someone fervidly writes the remainder of the script backstage.

Am I wrong? ;-)

Zahratique said...

I love Hausa movies too. I have never had a problem with the songs.

Whatever they ban, I hope the musician become solo artists and make it.

Talatu-Carmen said...

@ Fred,

Yes, I recognize BS. And you are full of it.

You've watched You Tube clips of Hausa songs and you have thus come to the conclusion that Hausa movies are spectacle for spectacle's safe, that the movies are without plot or structure. How exactly can you tell this from You Tube clips, which are usually no more than 4-5 minute trailers or song and dance excerpts? I've said this before, and I'll say it again, I do not respect critiques from people who have no idea of what they are talking about--the sort of people who are ready to burn a book they have not read. You cannot make an intelligent critique when you have not actually SEEN an entire Hausa film. Go watch Sanafahna, Zazzabi, 'Yar Tsana, Albashi, and Sarmadan, to name just a few, and then come back and tell me that the movies have "no discernible structure" that the song and dance has no relation to the larger story. I can have an intelligent and engaging discussion with someone who disagrees with me, but I cannot have one with someone with no knowledge who merely loves to hear himself say patronizing, provocative and ignorant things.

And finally, I'm not suggesting Hausa films are "high art." I am questioning the assumptions and premises of the idea of "high art" vs. "low art." Go read some Shakespeare, you'll find both both intermingled; that's what makes him so great.

Thanks for the comments. I hope that there will be some way to allow the singing and dancing back into the industry. I find it one of the most energetic, fascinating, and important parts of the industry--think of all of those songwriters who compose for each film! If they become independent artists, that would be great, and I hope they will if the ban continues. But it is still a great blow to the films, which will be much poorer (at least for a while) without them. It's a real shame. I'm still going to write on the songs and dances in my dissertation, even if it means I have to use older films.

Talatu-Carmen said...

Sorry, Freudian slip on the 'Yar Tsana. I meant Bakar Ashana (which is a lot like 'Yar Tsana, the brilliant novel by Ibrahim Sheme)

Fred said...

Apparently, I'm wrong! :)
Points taken, although something tells me 5 minutes of crap will not taste any better at 20 minutes—it's still crap.

As a standard, so I know: what are your favorite English language movies? I'm dying to know which get the C stamp of approval.

Krish Ashok said...

Fascinating blog. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll :)

As I am from India, I can understand the whole concept of song and dance in films. I suppose at the end of the day, people can argue to no end about whether songs and dance belong in movies. But the fact is that commercial cinema provides a platform for not just film directors and script writers, but for poets, music directors, choreographers and the like. While I suppose the end product can end up occasionally (well, in India, rather frequently) without a coherent plot, the average person in India expects a complete buffet of entertainment, drama, song, dance, fights and the like. So to Fred's point, while it's easy to criticize purely from a movie-critique standpoint, popular art will always mirror the average person's needs :)

Talatu-Carmen said...

Krish Ashok,

Thanks for dropping by! I found your blog while trying to google-research film-criticism of Indian films (since Hausa films have been very influenced by Indian films) and I have been enjoying it ever since!

And, yes, you bring up an important point about the film industry in India (and in Kano) employing not just directors, actors (etc), but also the musicians and poets who create the songs, the choreographers who put together the dances, etc. It's a BIGGER production than the songless movie, and I'm a big fan( as well as thinking the songs [not always, but often] are an integral part of the film itself--as far as developing, foreshadowing, commenting upon (etc.) the story.

@Fred, some of my favourite films are listed on my profile. I have eclectic taste--enjoying both minimalist films as well as over the top productions--and snobby people irritate me. You don't have to like it, but that doesn't really mean a thing--except to you.

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