The day was clement enough for all the usual suspects to drag themselves out of their self-imposed prisons to make the Red Carpet appearance they live for. Everyone would want to be seen. There was not a shortage of the usual drama – the dresses, the made-for-the-day make-up and who is with who now. Perfect, but we will not score anyone on those considerations today. Another day, maybe.
For now, our human lenses must remain focused on the important things. I wanted to be able to tell some of them, ‘I told you so!’ After all, it was the 15th Edition of the Africa Movie Academy Awards, possibly the fairest and most rewarding of them all! There are others but I resist the temptation to deviate.
I was skeptical that the usual Naija noise could have swayed the judges and swung things in the usual directions – no assault intended on their integrity. I was as disappointed as I was elated!
My first commendation must therefore go to Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the brain behind the AMAA concept for her doggedness, vision and unfaltering commitment to winning global integrity for the product she so carefully nurtured. Next must be this year’s Panel of Judges for a job well done to rescue the Nigerian movie industry from its own self.
Not counting the Diaspora awards, there were twenty-two awards and Nigeria took home five. Not bad. It will however be considered a disaster if you recall our many appellations and boasts – ‘second biggest movie-making country in the world’, ‘the hub of film-making in Africa’, ‘the largest employer of labor after agric in Nigeria’, ‘the great contributor to national GDP after re-basing the economy…’, ‘we lifted Nigeria’s economy to the largest in Africa!’ By the way, the veracity of those boasts remain a matter for a symposium.
Maybe we are indeed all of those things but truth, if the decision of the Judges at AMAA was anything to go by, is that we probably make far more noise than the quality of our works commend us. AMAA said so, unequivocally.
The AMAA judges said we were not good enough to win many of the key awards of excellence.
The Best Film, in the opinion of the judges was ‘Mercy of the Jungle’ from Rwanda! We have at least made some progress and we can now manufacture toothpicks for people to pick our teeth on set while filming another ‘blockbuster’.
Best Director went to one Jahmil X. Qubeka, for ‘Sew The Winter To My Skin’ from South Africa. They came all the way to Lagos, hub of film-making in Africa to cart away the crown of the best director! Who bears a name such as Blitz Bazawule and then wins Best Director – First Feature Film? From Ghana too! The same Ghana that we taught which end of the camera finds the object?
Marc Zinga played in ‘Mercy of The Jungle’ and he won Best Actor in A Leading Role. He came from Rwanda. He beat Jimmy Jean Louis and our very own Gabriel Afolayan in the same category, folks that are held in such high regard that it must leave you wondering what these Rwandans are smoking these days!
One Jarrid Geluld won Best Actor in Supporting Role for ‘The Ellen Parkies Story’ and both Reminisce and the great Kanayo O. Kanayo won nothing. There will be other times. Cynthia Dankwa won Best Young/Promising Actor though I understand that our own Angel Unigwe and Jamma Ibrahim have her a good fight so that’s ok.
Screenplay went to ‘Redemption’ from Mozambique, ‘Rafiki’ from Kenya took home the award for Editing, while the award for the coolest Cinematography went to this same ‘Sew The Winter To My Skin’ from South Africa and Best Achievement in Sound was given to ‘Mabata Bata’ from Mozambique. Best Short Film went to ‘A Tune of Kora’ (Senegal), Best film in African Language, ‘Rafiki’ (Kenya) – where was Asaba in all this?) while ‘Khartoum Offside’ won for Best Documentary. Yes, that was from Sudan.
Make-up was won by, you guessed it, ‘Mercy of The Jungle’ and Best Sountrack by Mozambique’s, ‘Mabata Bata’, Costume, ‘Mercy Of The Jungle’, Production Design was given to ‘Redemption’ from Mozambique. Come, when did Mozambique even start to make film sef?
Well, we did win a couple. I am very happy for my friend, Sola Sobowale, for ‘King of Boys’. She was our redemption, wrestling the Best Actress trophy from all the invaders, Adesua Etomi, Mrs Banky W, gave us Best Supporting Actress which was not bad and ‘CHOICES’ gave us another big one in the Best Animation category. Kemi Adetiba also did win our local NFVCB Award For Best Nigerian Film, No outsider could have won it anyway, so hearty congratulations, dear Kemi!
All told, to be fair, we did not do poorly. Our performance did not match our noise, no doubt but we remember that some folks did not even get a mention. I commend Adekunle Nodash for his multiple nominations, Tosin Coker my favorite nephew for the performance of Lara and the Beats (big up Biola Alabi).
Now, unless someone produced a sleight of hand, I knew they were going to beat us silly. Those other cultures of Africa that bothered to enter for the awards, how are they different? Obvious.
Their attitude to work is different, their commitment to education and constant renewal of themselves in technique and deployment of new equipment are humble and progressive, driven by curiosity and pursuit of excellence.
Driven by a vision that seems focused on the marathon of maximizing film-making rewards on a global scale rather than the sprint for today’s profits in local climes, they give all their physical, intellectual and financial energies to competing with the world’s best and not the best of the local. Their development proves the difference. It showed at the awards.
While we dishonestly haggle the dearth of cinema screens across the country to increase uncertain profit, they sharpen their focus on global reach, understanding that film may soon vacate the physical cinemas for the homes and play-on-the-go.
It is obvious that they have not sacrificed the often touted ‘telling our own stories’ for global competition but have instead carefully crafted themes that acknowledge the universality of human emotions and how they connect us all, then told it from their cultural perspectives, deploying their craft in the most professional and responsible manner with global viewing constantly in consideration. They did not make films aspiring to Oscar nomination that has already been ceded to their countries, they aimed for the stars and fell on the Moon. It is usually a good enough launch pad for spatial exploration.
15th October, 2019 was a day of reckoning for Nollywood, undoubtedly the biggest in Africa, and I am not gloating. I am just hopeful that in the shortest possible time, we will come to the reality that there is an urgent need to shed our garb of arrogance because it has been proven that we may not know as much as we had made ourselves believe or we may have become jaded where others have become innovative and current. It has been made clear that it is not in the sound and fury but the power of what we deliver. Southern Africa and Ghana have started to do something with what we taught them and they have gone past us in many aspects.
Whether it is a result of skilful management or pure superiority of craft, it is clear that players and other professionals from southern Africa may get international jobs before our best. It is a point to cause us to pause and ponder. I see nothing but idiosyncratic pride to refuse to give time to studying how others do something and they are guaranteed success.
Industry leaders must learn honesty, distinguish politics from professionalism; the practice that encourages a studio owner to be producer, director, writer, executive director, actor and publicist rolled into one is an aberration, greedy idiocy and ultimate disaster! Those who aspire to collaboration must insist on the very best business and professional practices with clear control lines and measurable outcomes; the government at all levels must resist the blackmail of the selfish few, desist from patronizing with unsecured and politically motivated grants, loans and ‘gifts’; the public must resist being fed with mediocrity. Otherwise, everyone will have connived to kill our collective staff of bread.
The last AMAA was the best thing to have happened to the industry. We were all forced to confront our reality. What we do with those lessons, remains our challenge, not theirs.
Just another chapter…in my musings.
- Bimbo Manuel, October, 2019