10 March 2012

Nigeria: Taking Hausa Films to the World With Hausafilms.TV


Pioneering Nollywood scholar Jonathan Haynes has argued that one of the most urgent aspects of research on the Nigerian film industry is preserving film history and compiling archives for films.

He has directed this appeal to scholars and universities, but one of the most exciting iniatives for compiling information about the Hausa film industry I've seen recently is the project of a volunteer. Recent university graduate Mahmud Fagge, who lives in the United States, wants to promote the Hausa film industry to the world and make films available online, using a web platform that can make money for filmmakers. Although Hausamovies.com, the initiative of Hauwa Al-Hassan, once sold Hausa films by mail order and compiled information about the stars, the closure of the website a few years ago has produced a vaccum for Hausa film fans living abroad and looking for legal copies of the movies. Kannywood Online, another online platform for learning about Hausa films, is currently down as well. Mahmud's hausafilms.tv site includes a list of Hausa films, a list of Hausa film stakeholders, with pages for each actor and actress, a page of links to news about the industry, and a youtube channel of trailers for Hausa films. He uses wiki technology so that anyone with access to the internet can contribute to building knowledge about the industry. Mahmud recently responded to some of my questions by email. - Carmen

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your Hausafilms.tv project?

My name is Mahmud Fagge. I'm originally from Fagge, Kano, Nigeria. I was born in Nigeria and have been fortunate enough to spend time in both Nigeria and America. I recently graduated with an Information Systems degree from UMBC, a university in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. I'm passionate about Hausa culture, and as I scoured the Internet for all things Hausa, I realized that although there's some Hausa content out there, it's not nearly enough. That gave me the idea for HausaFilms.tv, a website I'm hoping will be a great resource for those who want to learn about Hausa films, which are an entertaining way to learn the language and culture. I want it to be similar to the popular websites imdb.com and wikipedia.org in concept where anyone with a computer device and Internet access can sign up and contribute.

Many people go to Imdb to find out information like the age, the filmography, and the bio of their favorite actors, actresses, producers, and directors. Wikipedia is a free and collaborative online encyclopedia that has become the go-to resource for an estimated 365 million readers worldwide.

The concept of these popular websites is what's behind HausaFilms.tv but with the focus being on Hausa films. There's also a video component that I wanted to add to the site and when it comes to video, there's no better platform than the behemoth youtube.com because it works on different devices and is powered by Google meaning it is reliable. YouTube is the largest video sharing website that allows users to upload, view, and share videos. I use it to serve Hausa film trailers, clips, and promos and embed those onto hausafilms.tv.

What kinds of challenges have you faced?

Right off the bat, I faced the challenge of gaining access to Hausa films. Living in the United States, I'm used to the convenience of finding and buying almost everything I desire from the Internet. Unfortunately, this excludes Hausa films. As far as I'm aware, there is not a single website that legally sells Hausa films.

It's also very challenging to find information and access to the people involved in the industry. There's only a handful of Hausa actors, actresses, directors, and producers that are utilizing social networks or have their own websites. Last but not least, like most endeavors, there's the challenge of raising starting capital that will allow us to do certain things like buying streaming rights for the films. But then most of these challenges can be seen as opportunities as well.

How can your project help the Hausa film industry?

With more and more people all over the world going online, I see this project as a good start to promoting the Hausa film industry and expanding its reach. The industry appears to be self-sufficient right now, serving mostly local markets in Africa, but with more Hausa people going abroad, and as more people all over the world are becoming interested in the people, language, and culture, there is a great need for resources and information about Hausa.

So I'm hoping to provide an online information portal focused on the Hausa film industry. Eventually if possible, I also want the site to serve as a legal way to provide access to view Hausa films online and allow film makers to expand their reach beyond Africa.

Who have you been in touch with from the Hausa film industry? What kind of feedback have you received?

I first met a group of Hausa film producers in Kaduna. After a chat on the phone, I met them in person, and they had a high level of enthusiasm. I used my little netbook to show them what I had built of the website so far and explained to them some of the possibilities of utilizing YouTube and the Internet, and they were very excited. I left the meeting learning more about the industry and their challenges. They were kind enough to provide me with some of their content to experiment with like a high quality video trailer of the film Addu'a Garkuwar Mumini (Citadel of the Believer).

I was later contacted via email by Kannywood actor Abbas Saddiq who shared a similar level of enthusiasm. My latest interaction has been with the energetic and talented Hausa music producer and rap artist Nazir Ahmed Hausawa (Ziriums) who met up with me to discuss and push the project further along. All in all I've received a lot of great feedback and am hoping to reach out to more to the industry, take in their feedback, and further refine and progress the project.

What are your goals for the site and what do you think is the importance of the project?

My goal for the project is to help promote Hausa content on the Internet. I want the site to be a helpful resource for people from all over the world who are interested in watching and learning about Hausa films. I want the Hausa film industry to really start adapting amazing new Internet technologies that most of the world is already using.

Actors should continue to engage with their global fans and audience on social networks like twitter and Facebook. I'm hoping content creators will start providing a more convenient way for consumers to watch their films no matter where they are in the World in order to perhaps help ward off piracy that comes with traditional physical media.

What is the most important thing you'd like people to know about the project?

The aim of the project is to provide online access to Hausa film, videos and information to a large global Internet audience. I want to encourage everybody to utilize the Internet more. I want the industry to realize that the Internet is a big place and they have a lot of fans out there who would love to be able to watch and learn more about Hausa films.

That's why the industry should continue to look into providing this unique content in more convenient ways and continue to try to improve the production value, and provide quality subtitles so that many others can enjoy and understand Hausa films.

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