Berlinale: Programme

Film File


Shaihu Umar

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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 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. 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.

Adamu Halilu

Nigeria 1976


142’ · Colour


Umaru Ladan (Shaihu Umar)
Mairiga Aliyu (Fatima)
Husaini Mohammed (Umar, 3 Jahre alt)
Umaru Dembo (Makau)
Assad Yasin (Abdulkarim)
Harira Kachia (Kaka)


Adamu Halilu
Adamu Halilu, based on the novel of the same title by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
Yusuf Mohammed, Zakari Yusufu
Edwin Apim
Baba Gana
Production Design
Assad Yasin
Umaru Ladan, Umaru Dembo


Adamu Halilu

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.

Filmography (selection)

1963 Mama Learns a Lesson; 48 min. 1971 Child Bride; 70 min. 1976 Shaihu Umar 1978 Kanta of Kebbi 1981 Moment of Truth; 90 min. 1982 Zainab

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2018

Produced by

Federal Ministry of Information (Federal Film Unit Kaduna)