Didi Cheeka works as a director and film critic and has been working for years to reappraise the Nigerian film heritage. He initiated the archive project “Reclaiming History, Unveiling Memory” with the aim of restoring, digitizing and curating rediscovered Nigerian films.
SHAIHU UMAR is one of the most important works in Nigerian film history, but was long considered lost. Located in northern Nigeria at the end of the 19th century, the film is based on a novel by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who later became Nigeria’s first prime minister. Only the rediscovery of the camera negative in 2016 made the reconstruction of the film possible. The digitally restored version had its premiere at the Berlinale in February 2018.
Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century,Shaihu Umarstarts with a discussion between Islamic students and their renowned teacher, the wise man Shaihu Umar. Asked about his origins, Umar begins to tell his story: he comes from a modest background and is separated from his mother after his father dies and his stepfather is banished. His subsequent trials and tribulations are marked by slavery, and he is put to any number of tests until he finally becomes the adopted son of his Arabic master Abdulkarim. He attends Koran School and is made an imam upon reaching adulthood. Following a particular dream, he resolves to search for his mother.
Adamu Halilu filmedShaihu Umarin Hausa in 1976. Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art restored the film with the support of the German Embassy in Abuja.
Adamu Halilu, based on the novel of the same title by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
Director of Photography
Yusuf Mohammed, Zakari Yusufu
Umaru Ladan, Umaru Dembo
Born in the state of Adamawa, Nigeria in 1936. He studied screenwriting and editing in London. Along with his work as a feature film director, Adamu Halilu also wrote screenplays and took part in the production of almost 70 documentary films. Adamu Halilu died in 2001.
1963Mama Learns a Lesson; 48 min.1971Child Bride; 70 min.1976Shaihu Umar1978Kanta of Kebbi1981Moment of Truth; 90 min.1982Zainab
Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2018
Federal Ministry of Information (Federal Film Unit Kaduna)