Kunle Afolayan led Nigeria in stamping her authority on the filmmaking landscape of Africa by winning 13 out of the 24 main prizes at the 6th Africa Movie Academy Awards ceremony held on April 10, 2010 in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. The resurgent Nigeria, touted as the second most prolific ‘film industry’ in the world after India, appeared to have been on a mission to avenge herself after having ceded some of her territory to Kenya and South Africa in 2009. Not even assault from a particulary strong Ghana, led by the apparently indefatigable Shirley Frimpong-Manso and Leila Jewel Djansi, could prevent Nollywood commander Kunle Afolayan from reclaiming the territory he feels is rightfully Nigeria’s. OGOVA ONDEGO reports from Yenagoa.
Led by actor-cum-filmmaker Kunle Afolayan who has been described by ArtMatters.Info (see http://artmatters.info/?p=2217) as ‘taking African cinema to the next level’ and director Lucky Ejim, Nigeria went on the offensive immediately, forcifully taking away the Best Documentary Film Award and even the Best Film by an African Filmmaker in the Diaspora statuette. It was not lost on keen observers that Nigeria had decided to show her might even in animation, short film and documentary categories, areas usually deemed as belonging to nations like Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe who work in this non-commercial, purely creative and experimental fields. However on the night of April 10, Nigeria challenged the status quo, as if to state once for all that only she is qualified to discuss the art and science of filmmaking in Africa. Afolayan alone, the director of ARAROMIRE/The Figurine, took home five statuettes as Ghana fought back, Kenya clawed and Malawi barked.
When Nigerian Tunde Kelani vowed that Nigeria would no longer take defeat at the hands of other nations in Africa during the 5th Africa Movie Academy Awards after Kenya had routed her, little did he know that that his words would be fulfilled in exactly 12 months. Though Kelani himself may not have participated in the 6th AMAA in 2010, his words came to be fulfilled through his compatriot Kunle Afolayan who took four of the 13 statuettes won by Nigeria. He won the trophies for Best Picture, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Visual Effect, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. His film had received nine nominations.
As if living up to the legend of the figurine of the goddess Araromire that guarantees seven years of good luck on everyone who encounters it and on which Afolayan’s film is based, Nigeria crowed as the rest of the continent cowered, too stunned to breathe. It may be the time of plenty now, but just when will the seven years of good fortune end and what will follow thereafter, can only be left to the imagination. But for now the 2009-produced, 120-minute artsy ARAROMIRE, can only be described as the best thing that happened in Nigeria.
At first Afoloyan dedicated his Heartof Africa Award for the Best Film in Nigeria to ‘African filmmakers in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa’ but as his winning spree continued with him bagging the Best Pictire award, he said ‘Nigeria is set to harvest even more awards. We have many stories in the pipeline.’ And it may not be in vain that Nigeria is getting concerned over possible challenge to her tight grip on African filmmaking sector. This year ushered Malawi on screen with lots of fanfare. Though the country managed to win just one out of eight nominations, it was not lost on pundits that this southern African nation has arrived to stake claim on her rightful share in the mother continent’s audiovisual media sector. Malawian director Charles Shemu Joyah’s SEASONS OF A LIFE was a strong contender for the Best Screenplay, Best Original Soundtrack, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and Best Director. Sylvia Tapiwa Gwaza managed to win the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role perch, wrestling it from strong Ghanaian and Nigerian competitors Doris Sakitey (A Sting in a Tale), Funlola Aoifeyebi-Raini (The Figurine) and Yvonne Nelson (Heart of Men).
The ecstatic Gwaza, who said her role as the lawyer for a domestic worker sexually molested by her employer was her first in acting, attributed her victory to Chineke, God. Gwaza is a former cabin crew member for Air Malawi who resigned after 13 years in order to take care of family business in 2006.
“I got in SEASONS OF A LIFE by chance two months after it had commenced. It was a tough assignment as I had to memorise lines under the guidance of the director and production manager,” Gwaza later said in an interview. “I was working with more experienced stage actors, something that made me think I wasn’t good enough. I always looked like the under-dog in their presence.”
Now that she is starting to win awards, Gwaza attributes this to “God’s doing. He wants me to do something for Him. I was very confused when I was declared the winner of the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. When I said Chineke, it came from deep within my heart. Coming to Nigeria was a big deal. When I watch their films I was always mesmerised but to grace the same event and be on stage with Rita Dominic is too good a dream to be true,” Gwaza told ArtMatters.Info.
“Now that I’ve won, I’m more motivate and inspired though am unsure of what the future holds for me. I want to continue acting. If my acting can contribute to the welfare of my 11- and 8-year-old sons and 16-year-old niece, I could consider it as a career. I can live the veterinary work to a manager while I pursue my dream,” Gwaza said. “From our eight nomination, only mine was turned into an award bearing in mind I wasn’t a professional. I am excited!”
So overwhelmed was she, she says, that she couldn’t lift herself up to go on stage to receive her award. “It is Mrs Alice Joyah who helped me up. Then I realised I hadn’t even prepared a speech. That was why I invoked the name of God. I shall now show off my AMAA statuette to encourage youngsters to live up to their dreams and Malawi to invest in young people.”
Though she did not win the award for which she had been nominated “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” Flora Suya is excited that her acting was not only recognised at continental level but that she also got the chance to acquire a passport and travel out of her country for the very first time in her life. And in an aeroplane!
“Though my hopes were very high that I would win the prize, I came to accept the verdict of the jury; that God has his way of doing things. it’s like he has a script for all of us humans and we are the actors. Just the AMAA nomination is good enough for us,” says Suya, a hair dresser. “I was expecting to find directors in Ghana or Nigeria to cast me in their movies. I will now do more stage acting at home as I await opportunity to get on screen.”
Looking at Suya’s performance in SEASONS OF A LIFE, there is little doubt she can easily join the stars and become one of them if she is given the chance. And she is just in her early 20s.
Besides Afolayan, other big winners were Ghanaians Shirley Frimpong-Manso (Best Director, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for THE PERFECT PICTURE and Best Original Soundtrack for A STING IN A TALE) and Leila Jewel Djansi (Achievement in Sound, Achievement in Costume, and Special Jury Award).
Once again, the outcome of the 2010 AMAA showed that Frimpong-Manso, the only director with two films–THE PERFECT PICTURE and A STING IN ATALE–to have won awards, is the filmmaker to watch over the next couple of years.
Below is the full list of the 6th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) 2010 Winners:
I. Best Documentary Film: Bariga Boys, Nigeria
II. Best Short Film: The Abbys Boys, South Africa
III. Best Animation: Honyan’s Shoe, Egypt
IV. Best Film by an African in the Diaspora: Soul Diaspora, USA/Nigeria
V. Best Film in an African Language: Imani, Uganda
VI. Heart of Africa Award for Best Film from Nigeria: Araromire/The Figurine
VII. AMAA Achievement in Sound: I sing of a well, Ghana
VIII. AMAA Achievement in Editing: The Child, Nigeria
IX. AMAA Achievement in Art Direction: Fulani, Nigeria
X. AMAA Achievement in Make Up: The Child, Nigeria
XI. AMAA Achievement in Costume: I sing of a Well, Ghana
XII. AMAA Achievement in Visual Effect: Araromire/The Figurine, Nigeria
XIII. Best Original Soundtrack: A sting in a Tale, Ghana
XIV. Best Performance by a Child Actor: Teddy Onyango and Bill Oloo – Togetherness Supreme, Kenya
XV. Most Promising Actress: Chelsea Eze ‘Silent Scandal,Nigeria/Rahema Nanfuka’ Imani, Uganda
XVI. Most Promising Actor: Wilson Maina – Togetherness Supreme, Kenya
XVII. Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Adjatey Anang – The Perfect Picture, Ghana
XVIII. Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Tapiwa Gwaza – Seasons of a Life, Malawi
XIX. Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Jackie Appiah, Lydia Farson, Naa Ashoku Mensa-Doku: The Perfect Picture, Ghana
XX. Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Ramsey Nouah – The Figurine, Nigeria
XXI. Best Screenplay: The Tenant, Nigeria
XXII. AMAA Achievement in Cinematography: Araromire/The Figurine, Nigeria
XXIII. Best Picture: Araromire/The Figurine, Nigeria
XXIV. Best Director: Shirley Frimpong-Manso, The Perfect Picture, Ghana
Special Jury Award: I Sing of a Well, Ghana
Lifetime Achievement: King Boama Darko Ampaw, Ghana