Home Video People: Gamji Producer Declares: Let's Go Back to Our Tradition Vanguard (Lagos) INTERVIEW February 7, 2004 Posted to the web February 9, 2004 By Erhovwo Ipheghe IN far away Kano, a new movie production which brought together notable northern Nigerian based actors is being packaged for release. The movie titled Gamji is the prodcution of John Flash Steven, a choreographer, who had made his mark as a performing Artiste for fifteen years now. His theatre performances have taken him to several Art festivals, both national and international. A member of the famous Koroso dance Troupe of Kano and an actor, Flash here speaks on the production of the film, Gamji, and other matters. What inspired your production of Gamji? My inspiration stems from the fact that I have been a Performing Artist since 1988. During the National Festival of Arts and Culture which took place in Lagos, I represented Kano State in a dance improvisation which, at present, is the popular 'Marwelle' traditional dance. I felt like propagating and promoting the culture and tradition of Kano State unlike the modern films. As an Igbo man in far away Kano, how do you cope with the problems of not being an indigene? Well, the Kano State History and Culture Bureau where I worked for over nine years, had been a liberalized Ministry where you will find unity. People from different ethnic groups and languages work together in a team spirit, irrespective of religion and tribe. Moreover, there is no barrier in theatre practice. Film production is seen as a thing of the South of Nigeria. It must have been difficult for you to produce "Gamji." What challenges did you face? In every aspect of life, there are bound to be challenges. Wherever one finds oneself, one should always have the spirit of oneness and goodwill. My co-workers were very supportive and since it was something of a tradition, there was not much challenges for me. Though I encountered some challenges in the area of finance at the middle stage of the production of the film. Frequent disappointing moments and postponement of shootings also prolonged the schedule of the film at the earlier stage of the production. But my former director of Arts and Culture and the entire performing Artists of the History and Culture Bureau were very supportive during the production of the film. The cast and crew are all Northerners? In a way, yes. The cast and crew of the film, Gamji, constitutes about ninety to ninety-five percent Northerners. You are said to be a Choreographer; how did you find yourself in Kano as a member of the Koroso dance Troupe? Wherever I find myself, I have always felt that I belong there. With my years of experience as a Performing Artist and an actor for a period of years, coupled with the experience acquired, I became very used to the Northern way of life and as a result, it was easy for me to fit into the Koroso dance Troupe in Kano. You seem widely traveled. Where have you been to, in your business? In the course of working for the Kano History and Culture Bureau, I have had series of opportunities to participate, both in national and international festivals. To mention a few, I was in Burkina-Faso during an international festival which was an Arts exhibition, with the famous Koroso dance Troupe. I was also together with the same troupe in Zauya, Libya, in 1998 during President Muamar Gaddaffi's 30th anniversary in power. I was also in Cameroun for a number of times with the same troupe which is a yearly festival in Cameroun where there is cultural exchange between Cameroun and Nigeria. I have also traveled with the dance troupe on a presidential delegation to Caracas, Venezuela and Mexico in South America. I was also present at the just concluded festival of Arts and Culture where the Kano State contingent, where I belong, presented a dance drama, under the auspices of the permanent secretary, Dr. Emma Ahmed Zuberu and Ali Bature, the director of Arts and Culture, Kano State. Talk about the Movie now. Who and who featured in it? Some popular actors featured in it. The central character is a well-known actor, Idris Shuaibu(Lilisco) who is also the co-producer of the film. He has produced films like, Taskanrayuwa and Salsala and his current film, Salam, Salam which is yet to be released. There are other popular actors like Hankaka, Cherokee, Libabatu Madaji, Ahmed Abdullahi who played the role of the King and Awalomusa Solo, Katakore and many others. What does the film talk about? The film, Gamji, is about a king who was short of laughter for over fifteen years as a result of the death of his only son. He is bedeviled by a depressive mood and sought for somebody to make him laugh. He offered material gifts but the offer remained 'ungrabbed.' In the fifteenth year, he vows to give his daughter out in marriage to whoever makes him laugh. Meanwhile, there was a man, Aminu, who comes from a poverty-stricken family in that town. After the death of his father, his mother could no longer find any useful means of livelihood and as a result, she starved to death. One day, Aminu goes out in search of his daily bread and in the course of it, he meets a woman whom he offers bread, thinking that the woman needed it more than himself as charity. Aminu never knew the woman was a jinn(spirit). The woman who knew that Aminu had offered her a gift even when he appeared to be in need, became a shield for Aminu. Aminu eventually marries the Princess with the help of the spirit. However, other contestants plan to eliminate him. Whether they succeed or not is the big question which reviewers of the film will try to find out for themselves. How do you intend to market the film? I intend to market the film through the cinema. I also intend to do that throughout the whole federation and the world at large because it is a film that has a great story to tell. It is educative and has a human side to it. In addition to that, the English and French subtitles would not be a barrier to anybody. Most Nigerian film makers do not bother about making films which will continue to project our cultural heritage. Our coming generation may not know what happened if we don't put these down in books and films. Who directed the Movie? The Artistic Director is Idris Shuaibu(Lilisco) with support from the History and Culture Bureau, Kano. How do you see the Movie Industry? The Movie Industry, as I see it, seems to be cycling in one clock but this time, I think Nigeria needs a change. We need to go back to our tradition. Instead of trying to imitate the ideas of the western films and mimicking the tunes of the western countries, we should strive towards the portrayal of the tradition of our people. We have a very rich culture and tradition to project and propagate. We need to be creative, with concept. We should inculcate more of the human side into our films; we shouldn't copy each other. Films that would make people laugh in the face of uncertainties- a kind of comedy. Your profile and your background: Who is John Flash? I am the kind of person who takes life to be very simple. I am easy-going and I try as much as possible to be my brother's keeper, irrespective of race and religion. I also believe that one has to be flexible with due respect for all. One has to be good and Godlike while relating to people. My family is a celebrated one. I am the second to the last in a family of five children. My hometown is Orlu, Umukegu, in Imo State but I was born and brought up in Benue State and to a greater extent I am a Benue man. My wife happens to be a native of Benue State. She is quite compatible with me, character-wise. I am also blessed with a daughter.