BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Asurf Oluseyi, director of bold LGTB-themed short film, Hell or High Water is a sucker for unusual stories, if his latest production, Hakkunde, is anything to go by. Placing these two movies side by side, Asurf is revealed as a daring filmmaker who would rather tell stories no one is telling. By this, he takes away the convention of the African narrative of poverty porn and borrowed accents and gives his audience something to think about. If this isn’t commendable, then not many things are.
Hakkunde is the story of a jobless Nigerian graduate, Akande, who is on the run. We meet him running from an angry mob, then running on a motorbike whose rider, Ibrahim, is from Kaduna. When next he runs, it is from his sister, Yetunde, who is a real pain in all the concealed places. Ibrahim has hinted him about a cattle-rearing funding scheme in his home state that assures him of a sum of a hundred and fifty thousand Naira, and so Akande runs away with Ibrahim to the north in search of a better life, stealing his sister’s money. When his plans fail, he packs up and is about to run again, but the people he has met within his short stay make him realise he cannot keep running, so he decides to add value instead, by teaching village children arithmetic and helping nomads grow their businesses. It works, and he is able to make something of himself and shame his naysayers. He even adds a love conquest to his victory story.
That the Hakkunde story is deep goes without saying. It follows a rather predictable and basic path, but it is an angle rarely explored, especially as it moves from the overused Lagos metropolis and settles in northern Nigeria. It also doesn’t ride on the wings of a star-studded cast, so it is safe to say it is story-driven.
The pacing of the story, however, is its undoing. Hakkunde drags slowly, which isn’t a crime as it is drama, but goes on to drag too slowly it easily becomes a bore. There is pathos infused in everything, from the way Akande carries himself, to the way Aisha, an alleged village witch moves, to the way they stare at each other. Everything is a slow procession that wrestles with your eyes to shut it.
At a point the characters go on a back and forth as to whether Aisha is a witch or not as they keep trying to convince everybody, shedding very little light on sickle cell anaemia. I find it a little too coincidental that Aisha’s two husbands died of ScD unless they were brothers, which is still unlikely. I find it hard to imagine that Ibrahim and Akande leave Lagos at daylight and still arrive Kaduna at daylight. Ibrahim cannot decide what he would call Akande, whether stick to the movie title or stick to the character’s name, so he mixes it up, and so does his family. The scene after the dance and cliché lovers’ run where both Akande and Aisha are covered in something like a duvet, staring awkwardly into each other’s eyes is absolutely unnecessary. We already saw them hugging and being lovey-dovey in the previous scene, or is it just a case of bad editing? Whose house were they in that looked so beautiful as compared to all the other houses we had seen in the village?
Some of the lines, especially those spoken in Hausa are repetitive. When Binta and Akande go to see the chief, the scene is prolonged as the man keeps saying the same things; we see the subtitles, yet Binta has to recant everything to Akande in interpretation. It reminds you of all those services in Yoruba churches where you have to sit through two hours of a sermon because it is being interpreted in a language everyone already knows. Then again, how does Akande not understand the fundamentals of the language after all these months of interacting with people who only speak the language? How does he not know something as simple as “I love you”?
Hakkunde has its great moments still. Kunle Idowu aka Frank Donga is Akande and he brings his characteristic humour to the fore. What he also does is express emotion just as much, blending both personalities with brilliance. His expression of love leaves a lot to be desired, but his inadequacies are covered up well by Aisha, played by Rahama Sadau, and a beautiful Binta, played by Maryam Booth. The Hausa cast is a careful selection and the acting is generally impressive. Asurf deserves commendation for finding a meeting point between Nollywood and Kannywood, a feat not many have accomplished despite casting Ali Nuhu. Ali Nuhu makes a cameo here too, but without him, this movie would still have done just as fine. Toyin Aimakhu is in her element as Yetunde and adequately delivers.
When Bukky Ajayi is shown, tears immediately fill the eyes. It is an emotional moment, and we cannot but remember all the amazing work the late veteran has done in the Nigerian film industry. That Asurf is able to pull this off wins my heart, which is why the shortcomings of Hakkunde are nearly forgotten in the end. But rather than bring it to a quick close afterwards, Hakkande painfully drags through a graveyard scene to a few other unimportant scenes before wrapping up.
For a debut feature, Hakkunde is a commendable effort. It combines lovely shots with good acts and a familiar yet biting story. Written by Tomi Adesina, Hakkunde doesn’t entertain much, but perhaps this isn’t what it aims to do. Perhaps it aims to touch where it does, and perhaps that is fine too.