By Ogova Ondego
Published January 4, 2014
Peace Anyiam-Osigwe is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Film Academy (AFA) that presents the annual Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). This pan-African initiative marks 10 years since its inception in 2005 in 2014. In this interview, Anyiam-Osigwa traces the journey travelled so far, taking stock of the successes and short-comings of AMAA, and explaining what steps AMAA is taking as it seeks to become the truly international brand.
What role is AMAA playing in shaping trends in African cinema?
AMAA is helping set standards for cinema by identifying talent, recognizing and rewarding it through our annual awards. AMAA is training young people across Africa in the various sections of filmmaking. AMAA is collaborating with like-minded initiatives across Africa, the Diaspora and the world in the promotion of African cinema.
What are some of the biggest contributions of AMAA to African cinema so far?
Over the past nine years AMAA has managed to raise the profile of African cinema; films that are nominated or win at AMAA are now getting internationally accepted in the world film festival circuits: Cannes, Berlinale, Toronto International Film Festival, Dubai International Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles (USA), and London African Film Festival. Most AMAA-winning films have so far travelled widely and been screened at more than 50 international film festivals. Furthermore, AMAA winners are being celebrated in major film festivals around the world. AMAA’s Film-in-a-Box project is training young people across Africa. We have been to Malawi, The Gambia, South Africa, Nigeria and fanning out our wings subject to availability of resources. We have brought AMAA events—Nomination, training and concerts to South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and of course, Nideria where AMAA is based. Those who have benefited from these events are the citizens of host countries, courtesy of AMAA.
The budget for presenting AMAA must be huge; do you get any support from governments and corporate? What would be in it for them?
We have in the past got some support from United Bank for Africa and also from the Bayelsa State Government. We have in 2013 collaborated with the Government of Malawi. Airtel, UBA and the Governments of Bayelsa State and Republic of Malawi have supported AMAA because of AMAA’s pan-African profile and outlook. While Bayelsa, a state within Nigeria, seeks to promote its tourism potential across Africa, the Diaspora and the world and grow its economy, Malawi wants to empoewer its young people with skills that AMAA offers, create employment and grow its economy as well. Malawi says it wants to project a positive image through filmmaking just as Nigeria is doing. Airtel and UBA have Africa-wide presence and hrence their desire to partner with AMAA that also serves the whole continent.
It must be hard pushing it as a Pan African award especially due to its history, what is your team planning to do to achieve this especially now that you are preparing to celebrate ten years of AMAA?
AMAA seeks to consolidate the gains of partnership made over the past nine years. AMAA shall seek to strengthen the areas where we have done well and improve on those where we have been found wanting. AMAA is the number one creative and cultural event on the African continent in terms of attendance; AMAA hosts guests from across Africa, the Diaspora and the world. No other event does this. I am aware that our Achilles Heel lies in the area of logistics; this comes from where and how the AMAA ceremony is hosted. AMAA is working on this problem and we want to eliminate it ahead of the 10th anniversary in 2014.
What innovations are we likely to see from AMAA moving forward, especially to correct the logistical and other challenges experienced in the last edition?
Having identified this problem, AMAA is looking into employing logistical experts. We are also working with partners from Hollywood to help us on this front. This will catapult AMAA onto the international platform as far as global awards schemes are concerned. We are doing well in all areas except in the logistics department. We not only feel embarrassed apologise to guests, friends, partners and supporters across the world but are doing everything in our power to ensure that we host hitch-free gala events.
Standing at the centre of AMAA must have given you a chance to get the best picture of African cinema today. Who are some of the biggest names in the industry?
AMAA began in Nigeria. AMAA is a pan-African initiative. Most notable filmmakers in Africa recognize AMAA and its career-development potential. AMAA cannot be ignored when it comes to film in Africa. Award-winning filmmakers like Lancelot Imasuen and Andy Amenechi (Nigeria), Charles Joyah (Malawi), Shirley-Frimpong-Manso and Leila Djansi (Ghana), Charles Vundla (South Africa), Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya) have all been to AMAA. Many film initiatives across Africa and the Diaspora are seeking a stamp of recognition from AMAA. Many beginning filmmakers are using AMAA as their launch pad.
Do you have any other comment?
Yes, I’d like to add that we in Africa need to learn how to appreciate and encourage our own initiatives instead of seeking to destroy them. We must encourage our own home-grown initiatives to do even better for the good of Africa instead of just looking for weaknesses with which to bring down potentially useful initiatives. I appeal to us to support our own, to encourage our own, to help make our own better. Even initiatives like Hollywood weren’t built in a day. Thanks to AMAA, African films are now accepted widely around the world. We are still growing, though. There is a new phase of African cinema, especially with regard to the digital technology. We are trying to tap into this so as not to be left behind again. AMAA is strongly promoting the idea that Africans must begin to tell their own stories using the cinema medium. This is beginning to yield fruits. More young Africans are now making films. These films are going places. We are beginning to have cinema-going culture all over again. Film institutions are being built across Africa. A good example is the brand Nollywood that is influencing many African countries: Malawi, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and many other countries across the continent. Over the next 10 years or thereabout, Africa will be a force to reckon with in world cinema. Besides creating huge employment opportunities, lost African values and traditions will be restored through this medium.