I watched ‘In Search of the King’ last Sunday in Kaduna and was pleasantly surprised at its makers’ effort to push the envelope in the epic genre in Kannywood, the Hausa film industry. First, it is another “Hausa film in English” made by Malam Kabiru Musa Jammaje, who has produced two others before. And that’s its major strength. The significance of this is that it is expanding the viewership of a Kannywood movie beyond the vernacular barrier. Second, it is taking along with it the culture of the Hausa people to the wider world.
The cinematography is wonderful. The cast has given a great performance, especially the lead actor Abdullahi Amdaz whose enthusiasm remains unflagging throughout. It is amazing that his (and other actors’) rendition of spoken English is near-perfect.
But then the moviemakers must continue to innovate as they move along. They should create unique stories that are dissimilar from previous productions that were made in Hausa and beyond. ‘In Search…’ is much like Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s ‘Juyin Sarauta’ and can be compared to ‘The Game of Thrones’ whose seven kingdoms were reduced to three. The theme of the travails of a young man in search of his glorious origin and reclaiming it can be found in many other films, such as Ali Nuhu’s ‘Mansoor’.
There are other lapses. The storyline is clearly dated. It is based on Nigeria’s precolonial times when emirs had the power to banish their disfavoured persons from their kingdom, but then some of the costume and the props are postcolonial and even contemporary. A zinc hut is seen with horses kept inside it. A GSM mast is inadvertently captured by the camera during a fanning. I saw at least two defocused shots that a proper editing should have avoided.
Kudos to Jammaje, the director Baharu and the actors led by Amdaz, all of whom I met at the Kaduna screening. They have advanced Kannywood further ahead with this film.
I hope Jammaje will be supported by the government and the society as he produces the kind of films critics have been clamouring for. He should not be discouraged by lack of government patronage and or the viewers’ nonchalance.