Prior to the commencement of the 17th edition of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) on November 28, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the founder, takes us through the foundational pillars on which the award is built.

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There are those who believe that if every African film practitioner is as passionate as Anyiam-Osigwe about the creative industry, the continent would probably have grown beyond where it is coasted today.

Speaking with TheCable Lifestyle, the filmmaker said the major reason AMAA was birthed in 2005 wasto start something that separates the best of our filmmakers from the pool, where we can communicate, network, talk about our achievements and really just have fun with black filmmakers around the world.”

To Anyiam-Osigwe, AMAA is far from a one-off award night. It is something that represents the growth of a nascent but viable culture; a platform for the preservation of original African narratives which the western world is eyeing, and a community where professional film practitioners can network, and continually reinforce the uniqueness in our African stories.

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In this interview, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe talks about the need for African filmmakers to be recognised; why the jury system is important in vetting films; and the exponential growth that the relationship between the government, private organisations, and the creative industry can yield.

Why was AMAA created?

One of the reasons is that we have a lot of filmmakers in Africa and even in the diaspora but they were not really recognised, that was the main reason we decided to start something that separates the best of our filmmakers from the pool, where we can communicate, network, talk about our achievements and really just have fun with black filmmakers around the world.

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It is something to feel a vacuum.

What are the things that differentiate the awards from others

One of the main things about the AMAA is the jury system.

It is not the people’s choice, it is not a popular vote, it is an academy of juries, so, they are people who are curators of films for festivals across the world for an average of 30 years.

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Someone like Dorathy has curated African films since 1990, and you have Keith Sherry, June Giovanni. They have been out there. 

It is all about people who really believe and understand what African films are about and that know the necessary qualities that make a good film.

It is very difficult, a lot of times, people say our criteria are difficult but we celebrate the professionalism of the art and not the popularity of filmmakers. It is actually more of the technical sides of the film.

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There are reasons we do that, Africans have to tell their own story and it’s to be in its own words.

At the same time, our stories need to travel so that people can begin to appreciate what we are about. We can’t always be about films just for our audience.

Most of the films that win AMAA actually travel across the world, which means it effectively challenges our filmmakers to do more, so you get to know real actors. We celebrate the best.

On how the jury system works

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Most awards systems that are professional are jury-based. They are not voters based. That is an anomaly.

Popular film is not necessarily going to win at the AMAA, that is for real. You can be a popular film and you can still win at the AMAA but you must have the technical skills.

And sometimes, people criticise us that they haven’t seen the films that won the AMAA before, especially in Nigeria.

I’d say to them that this comes from the fact that Nigeria is actually an interesting audience, but we don’t watch as many films as we should. 

You might have to watch a little bit of art and films to really appreciate filmmaking. So, what I find is that a lot of people don’t actually watch as many films as are out there to watch. 

Sometimes they seem to think that we are wrong in the way we judge films. There are a lot of things that go into judging a film.

It is not just what we know, they also want to judge films based on research and what you have done with the details in the films themselves. 

What people should not forget is that when people criticise I listen and I’d always say to them that more than a hundred eyes see the films that we have in AMAA.

We have three stages of pre-selection before you even get to the college of screening before you get to the academy of juries. A lot of people don’t understand that a lot of our selectors actually watch films throughout the year. Sometimes they go to the cinema or festivals in Nigeria, South Africa, or wherever they are in the world.

They are watching these films to see which ones are going to come into AMAA.

So, when people criticise procedures, we take it on board and move along, things will change. These days a lot of things are changing but I don’t see AMAA moving away from the jury system.

What are the challenges AMAA has faced since its inception?

A lot of the time, people in government don’t really understand what film festivals and awards can bring, especially into the creative sector.

AMAA drives tourism, people come in. This year, most of our nominees are coming days earlier because they just want to hang around Lagos.

There are going to be hotel accommodation bookings, and transportation. People that come for the show get to hang out and network, so the bars and restaurants make a lot of money. 

People in the film industry network a lot and that way, we drive tourism. That brings a surge in internally generated revenue (IGR). 

The funding to host this event is consuming. The cost of putting it together is huge. You have to pay a lot of people. There are a lot of costs that go into organising an event.

What would the solutions be?

Any economy that wants to keep moving has to invest in sustainable projects and events that will drive tourism. 

AMAA has always been lucky to have some form of partnership or sponsorships. We started a partnership with Bayelsa, we will continue to ask the government to invest in the creative industries and work with them.

Governments and private organisations must integrate themselves into the value chain that the creative industry brings.

They shouldn’t see it like they are dashing money to the creative industry, you are investing in others to gain and the more you invest the more you gain.

Government and private organisations should integrate into value in the creative industry.

There are a lot of values that come to you identifying with the creative industry. If you want to increase the IGR generated through tourism, the way you handle festivals will drive people to come.

What are the things that will make this year’s edition of the AMAA more interesting? 

The most beautiful thing we have in this year’s edition is the number of entries we got, especially from Arab Africa. 

This year they came in and they came in hot. They have quality films in contention.

There is a lot more interest in the African award system, the networking is great. And Africa is a darling and international film industries are always keeping an eye out for what is happening in Africa and especially Nigeria.

Why have you chosen to host the event in Lagos?

We have been in Lagos for the past three years. And some of the things that have been outstanding are accessibility and security. And funny enough, a lot of people just want to come to Lagos. 

The mantra ‘Eko for show’ is just too captivating. We all hear about Lagos. When you talk about music, you talk about Lagos. And when you talk about food, you talk about Lagos too.

There is a kind of Lagos branding that has gone on indirectly into the mindset of our international friends. And I would hope that the Lagos state government can also understand the potential they have here.

It can just double its IGR just from the creative industry if they understand how to affiliate with all the brands that host events in Lagos, especially within now and the end of the year.

From the end of October till the end of December, it is a crazy time in Lagos. There are actually no venues. I would like to see more professional events, convention centres, a whole arena where you can have the numbers and it makes it easier.



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