A film screening set in the Muslim community is a valuable space offered by the Madani Film Festival to celebrate diversity. This year we will travel through time and experience the plurality of Muslim cultures from a historical perspective through the Madani Classic Program. In this program we will show 2 films originating from the African continent and the neighboring country of Thailand.

The first film, Shaihu Umar (Director: Adamu Halilu, 1976) is a film set in Nigeria at the end of the 19th century, before the country was colonized by the British. This film invites the audience to understand the complexities of society in the Sub-Saharan Africa region with racial hierarchies between skin colors and how educated people use Arabic as a cultural capital. Sahihu Umar was adapted from the 1955 novel by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister. The novel, as well as the film, uses the Hausa language which is one of the dominant local languages in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this film we will find historical narratives in the form of Shaihu Umar’s life story that intersects with Shaihu Umar’s slavery and wandering after being separated from his parents.

The second film is Peesua lae Dokmai or Butterfly and Flowers (Director: Euthana Mukdasanit, 1985) from Thailand which is set in the Muslim community on the border with Malaysia. This film is an adaptation of a novel with the same title by Nipphan (Makut Oradee) published in 1978. Director Euthana Mukdasanit is one of the creators who often raises the issue of social justice in his works. Peesua Lae Dokmai invites the audience to experience the teenage years of a poor young man who was forced to choose to quit school and look for money to support his family. The audience is invited to observe the difficult choices made by a young man in compulsion and in direct collision with various moral dilemmas in shaping his masculinity. This film is reminiscent of other Southeast Asian films from Indonesia and the Philippines in the 1980s, a realistic drama narrated poetically to create a space for contemplation of humanity.

Hopefully the encounter with these two films will enrich our insights with the richness of Muslim culture in the world, appreciation for the beauty and knowledge that live in it.


Lisabona Rahman

Shaihu Umar

Adamu Halilu | Drama | 1976 | 142 min | Nigeria | Lang: Hausa | Sub: English | 12+

Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century, Shaihu Umar starts 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 Profile

Adamu Halilu filmed Shaihu Umar in Hausa in 1976. The film is based on the eponymous 1955 novella by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, which has been reprinted many times. Balewa was prime minister of Nigeria from 1957 to 1966. Halilu made Shaihu Umar, his first major project and the first feature film in Hausa, the most widely spoken commercial language in West-Central Africa. The film was long believed to be lost, but the negatives and copies were rediscovered in the archive of the Nigerian Film Corporation in 2016. Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art restored the film with the support of the German Embassy in Abuja. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus). Along with his work as a feature film director, Adamu Halilu also wrote screenplays and took part in the production of almost seventy documentary films. In 1978, he founded the production company Haske Films. From 1983 to 1985, he was the general manager of the Nigerian Film Corporation, and in 1986 he was appointed director of the Nigerian Film Unit. Adamu Halilu died on 1 September 2001.

Paesua lae Dokmai/Butterfly and Flowers

Euthana Mukdasanit | Drama | 1985 | 160 min | Thailand | Lang: Thailand | Sub: English | 12+

Butterfly and Flower (Peesua lae Dokmai), highlights the hardships faced by a boy who works selling popsicles at the local train station forced by economic circumstances to smuggle rice across the Thai-Malaysian border. Aside from exposing Thai audiences to regional poverty, the 1985 movie broke new ground by portraying a Buddhist-Muslim romance. Butterfly and Flower delighted the Thai public when it earned a Best Film award at the 1986 East-West Film Festival in Honolulu.


Euthana Mukdasanit Profile

Euthana Mukdasanit is a Thai film director and screenwriter. As a contemporary of Chatrichalerm Yukol, Euthana was among a group of directors that during the 1970s made films that focused on social problems. Among his early efforts was the 1977 docudrama, Tongpan, which was initially banned in Thailand for its socialist themes. His 1984 film, Story of Nam Poo, was submitted as Thailand’s official entry to the Academy Awards. Butterfly and Flowers, an acclaimed drama set in Muslim-majority southern Thailand, was screened and won Best Film at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 1985. He also directed the remake of the 1965 musical comedy film, Ngern Ngern Ngern (Money Money Money), and the romantic drama Sunset at Chaophraya (1996). Euthana served as a stunt coordinator and third-unit director on Chatrichalerm’s The Legend of Suriyothai, and he also works as an acting coach. He was awarded the Lotus Award for lifetime achievement by the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2007.

Various films in the Madani Classic program can be watched through through this link and through the Klik Film application, free of charge.