A film rediscovered is a new film: SHAIHU UMAR by Adamu Halilu (Forum) was little known and hardly screened outside of Nigeria, where it was a hit upon its first release in 1976. Based on a novel written in Hausa, by a young writer who would later become the first prime minister of Nigeria, the story is one of migration and loss quite beyond the usual scenarios of colonial literature. The reconstruction of the film through fragments from the National Film Archive in Jos offers an occasion to develop a new perspective on film history beyond the established modes of the historiography of world cinema.
Historical films are often frowned upon, not least, of course, by historians, who wish to protect their jurisdiction over what counts as factual, well-sourced historical knowledge. Yet they have consistently been popular throughout film history. What is more, perceptions of historical events in the 20th and 21st centuries are often shaped by the film record. Jean-Luc Godard highlights this connection between film and historical experience in his HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA, where he somewhat hyperbolically declares that cinema’s greatest failing is not to have been present to record the Holocaust. The discovery and first publication of the holdings of any national film archive, which in this case contains never before seen documentary footage of the country, can be considered a major event not just for film culture, but for historiography broadly speaking. This certainly is the case with the National Film Archive in Jos.
Christy Best is the rector of the National Film Institute in Jos.
Esther Jemila Chukwuma is Chief Archivist at the Nigerian Film Corporation, Jos.
Didi Cheeka is an off-Nollywood filmmaker and critic. He is the co-founder and curator of Lagos Film Society.
Vinzenz Hediger is professor of film studies at Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main.
Stefanie Schulte Strathaus is co-director of the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art in Berlin and founding director of Forum Expanded.
All panels, talks, and presentations in English.