By Ogova Ondego
Published March 30, 2011
“Kenya has a long way to go. The rest of Africa has upped its ante. Let us work on producing our good quality films or slide intoirrelevance on the African scene,” was all Kenyan filmmaker F Simiyu Barasa could say following the poor performance of Kenya in the 7th Africa Movie Academy Awards Gala Night in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, on March 27/28, 2011.
Kenya, whose Wanuri Kahiu had made history by emerging the first woman to win the Best Director Award at AMAA in 2009, watched helplessly in 2011 as prizes were shared between Congo-Kinshasa’s VIVA RIVA (it took six of the 12 prizes it had been nominated for!) and THE MINE (it won the Best Short Documentary Award) and South Africa that won six awards.
VIVA RIVA, the Congolese crew said, is the first film made in Congo’s native Lingala language in 20 years. They said they had worked on the film for five years and that it was bringing in dividends from international film festivals like Berlinale, FESPACO and Toronto. Thus Congo-Kinshasa has broken Kenya’s record by one prize. Kenya had won six in 2009.
South Africa took six awards with SHIRLEY ADAMS (Achievement in Sound, Special Jury Prize,), A SMALL TOWN CALLED DESCENT (The Best Visual Effects), IZULU LAMI (The Best Film in an African Language, The Best Child Actor), and HOPEVILLE (The Best Actor in Leading Role).
Ghana’s SINKING SANDS won three awards: The Best Make up, The Best Screenplay, and The Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Nigeria struggled to win in two competitive categories–The Best Sound for Jeta Amata’s INALE and The Best Costume for Niji Akanji’s ARAMOTU. Together with the ‘affirmative action’ category ‘Best Nigerian Film’ in which only Nigerian films compete and that was in 2011 won by ARAMOTU, Nigeria came out with three AMAA statuettes as Kenya limped away with one: Achievement in Editing that went to SOUL BOY.
Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the founder and chief executive officer of AMAA, called upon filmmakers in Africa and in the Diaspora to explore more stories that project the continent ‘truly and positively’.
“Our films must not validate some of the negative stereotypes Europeans and Americans have about us. We have our challenges but good things are also happening in Africa,” she said, appealing to governments in Africa to support what has now come to be known the creative sector-the entire arts and culture sector.
“Our writers, filmmakers and other professionals within the creative sector continue to bring glory and honour to Africa and providing jobs for millions of people. Our governments must take this sector seriously and provide the necessary structures and funding that will help the sector grow.”
Although the jury ‘praised the recent boost in short film production in Nigeria and Cameroon’ and went on to award an Honourable Mention to NO JERSEY, NO MATCH by Nigerian Daniel Ademinokan, not all appears to be well in the audiovisual media sector. For instance, the award for the Best Animation was not presented due to the fact that the entries were either not enough or were wanting.
Ghana may not have performed to expectation, but she still appeared in the awards tally. However, Kenya’s dismal performance has left many with numerous questions as to what happened to the East African country that had started being counted as one of the giants of filmmaking after her sterling performance in 2009. That year, Kenya’s nominees included Lola Kenya Screen’s productions: SANTOS THE SURVIVOR by Rupinder Jagdev (Best Short Documentary), LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS by Adede Hawi, Samora Oundo and Karama Ogova (Best Animation), CHEPRONO by Lola Kenya Screen (Best Animation), and MANANI OGRES by Samuel Musembi, Norrick Joseph and Joseph Hongo (Best Animation); PAMELA by James Kanja (Best Short Film); FROM A WHISPER by Wanuri Kahiu (Achievement in Sound, Achievement in Editing, Achievement in make-Up, The Best Original Sound Track, The Best Performance by a Child Actor: Samara Migwi; The Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Godfrey Odhiambo; The Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Corine Onyango; The Best Performance by an Actor in a supporting Role: Kenneth Sammy Muigai Ambani and Abubakar Mwenda; Achievement in Cinematography, The Best Screenplay, The Best Picture, The Best Director); COMING OF AGE by Judy Kibinge (The Best Short Documentary); and KILLER NECKLACE by Judy Kibinge (The Best Short Film).
FROM A WHISPER won Kenya five awards–The Best Director, The Best Picture, The Best Cinematography, The Best Screenplay, and The Best Original Soundtrack as Kibinge’s COMING OF AGE was declared The Best Short Documentary.
Keen observers,however, willÂ point out that Kenya’s slide backwards came in 2010 when only TOGETHERNESS SUPREME by Kenya-based American director Nathan Collet was the only film from the country to collect two AMA Awards: The Best Performance by a Child Actor for Teddy Onyango and Bill Oloo and The Most Promising Actor for Wilson Maina.
Although Judy Kibinge’s PEACE WANTED ALIVE had been nominated for The Best Long Documentary that year, it did not bag the award. This means that Kibinge is the only Kenyan filmmaker so far whose films have been nominated for AMAA prizes without a break since 2009.
Here is the full list of AMAA 2011 Awardees as announced in Yenagoa, Nigeria:
Best Short Film: DINA, Mickey Fonseca, Mozambique
Best Short Documentary: AFTER THE MINE, Congo-Kinshasa
Best Long Documentary: KONDI ET LE JEUDI NATIONALE, Cameroun
Best Diaspora Feature: SUICIDE DOLLS, USA
Best long Diaspora Documentary: STUBBORN AS A MULE, USA
Best Diaspora Short Film: PRECIPICE, UK
Best Film by an African Filmmaker Abroad: OLADIGBOLU, Nigeria/USA
Achievement in Sound: SHIRLEY ADAMS, South Africa
Achievement in Editing: SOUL BOY, Germany/Kenya
Achievement in Production Design: VIVA RIVA, Congo-Kinshasa
Achievement in Make-up: SINKING SANDS, Ghana
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ama Abebresse (SINKING SANDS), Ghana
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Themba Ndaba (HOPEVILLE), South Africa
Best Film in an African Language: IZULU LAMI, South Africa
Best Screenplay: SINKING SANDS, Ghana
Best Cinematography: VIVA RIVA, Congo-Kinshasa
Best Director: Djo Tunda wa Munga (VIVA RIVA), Congo-Kinshasa
Best Film: VIVA RIVA, Congo-Kinshasa
Achievement in Costume: ARAMOTU, Nigeria
Best Nigerian Film: ARAMOTU
Best Child Actor: Sobahle Mkhabase, Tschepang Mohlomi, Sibonelo Malinga (IZULU LAMI), South Africa
Best Visual Effects: A SMALL TOWN CALLED DESCENT, South Africa
Best Young Actor: Edward Kagutuzi, Nigeria/UK
Special Jury Prize: SHIRLEY ADAMS, South Africa