Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State recently played host to celebrities, high society personalities, business leaders, film makers and allied professionals from Africa and around the world at the 2016 African Movie Academy Awards, a prestigious Pan-African awards designed to celebrate and recognise achievements in the motion picture industry. Mary Ekah writes that the event was jam-packed with pleasant surprises
The just concluded 2016 African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), has once again proved to be a remarkable event that rewards and encourages African originality as it had continued to attest to the fact that it is the only filmic event that seeks out and brings to wider attention the continent's unique and distinctive filmmaking talents.
This year's edition, the 12th in its series, which held at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre in the city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had a number of surprises as some expectations turned out in the contrary while other events completely shocked the audience.
First, it was feared that the Garden City would not be conducive enough for a world event like AMAA to hold, bearing in mind the recent activities of militants in the Niger Delta. The reverse was however the case as Port Harcourt was as peaceful and safe as ever, while the event lasted just like the Governor, Nyesom Wike had promised to make the guests have a good and exciting experience while the event lasted.
This year's event hosted by Governor Wike also had in attendance the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, wife of Rivers State governor, Justice Eberechi Wike, members of the House of Representatives like Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Rivers State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Tonye Briggs Oniyide and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Michael Ejiohuo, among other dignitaries.
Other Nollywood stars at the event included Pete Edochie, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Chiwatalagu, Charles Aworum, Saidi Balogun, Segun Arinze, Eniola Badmus, Kanayo Kanayo, Ikem Owoh, Omoni Oboli, O C Okeje, Uti Nwachukwu and Doris Simeon among others.
At this year's AMAA, Africa's biggest movie industry, Nollywood led, winning 10 of the 24 categories as four of the industry's veterans were honoured with the AMAA Lifetime Awards. Endowed with the prestigious honours were Chief Olu Jacobs and his wife, Joke Silva. Others that made the list were Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) star of the now rested New Masquerade, Tony Akposhore a.k.a Zakky for their immense contributions to the growth of the African film industry.
It was a night of surprises, particularly to these long-standing actors who were appreciated for their immense contributions to the growth of the Nigerian film industry and the African film industry in general.
Veteran actors, Joke Silva and her husband Olu Jacobs were called to the stage to give awards but it turned out that they were called to be given an award to their surprise and that of the audience.
The highpoint of the night was the presentation of awards to the winners. However, one award that got every one in the hall emotional was the AMAA Lifetime Achievement Awards, which brought about more surprises as the outburst by awardees of this very special award got the auditorium erupted in excitement.
Joke Silva who was emotionally shaken could not hold back her tears for being honoured, as she burst out in tears. "I was only invited to grace this occasion. I thought I should come since it sounded as if Peace really needs my support and presence. This was not on my mind. But I thank you all for considering me proper for this honour. On behalf of my husband, I say, thank you", she said.
Joke Silva and Olu Jacobs were presented their awards by former Senate President, Senator David Mark and Ghanaian actress, Juliet Ibrahim.
RMD whose award was presented to him by veteran actor, Pete Edochie and the First Lady of Rivers State, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom Wike, just like Joke Silva, almost betrayed emotions while making his speech. RMD's moving speech was enduring. While he spoke in between withheld tears, he paid a glowing tribute to late movie producer, Amaka Igwe before dedicating the award to the kids on the streets of Warri and Nigeria in general.
Another shocking outburst, which also moved everyone in the hall was that of Joe Brown Ubaka whose film, 'Missing God' won the Ousmane Sembene award for Best film in African Language. Ubaka, who immediately he was announced winner of the award, screamed from amidst the audience as he journeyed to the stage to get his award, said, "Thank Goodluck Jonathan for empowering Nollywood."
For him, winning the Sembene Ousmane Best African Language Film is a great honour and gloriously amazing.
"This is the greatest blessing I've received as a filmmaker because of the name tagged to the Award "Sembene Ousmane" the father of African Cinema, so to me a new mantle has been handed over to me, to continue in the stride of this great filmmaker.
"For those of us who don't know the man called late Sembene Ousmane, he was a man with great track record in terms of cinematic achievements in African cinema, he won several awards and the last I could remember was 'Certain Regards' in Cannes Film Festival 2004 with his last film titled: Moolaade and he lived a fulfilled life, died at the age of 92. Late Sembene Ousmane was a man I respect so much from Senegal, though I'm a disciple of Jibril Diop Membety, another rebel filmmaker from Senegal, a friend of Martin Scorcese, another mentor," he said.
The AMAA night of surprises also witnessed the victory of South Africa's petite actress, Fulu Mugovhani standing tall before Mo Abudu's Fifty's famous acts- Iretiola Doyle, Dakore Egbuson, Nse Ikpe Etim and Omoni Oboli to win the Best Actress Award for her role in the film, 'Ayanda'.The 2016 AMAA Best film went to another Nollywood neighbour, Burkina Faso in the movie, 'Eye of the Storm'.
The Nigerian movie industry clinched the awards in Best Make Up (Soldier Story), Best Short Film (Meet the Parents), Best Film in an African Language (Missing God), Best Visual Effect (Oshimiri), Best Achievement in Sound (Fifty), Best Feature Film by a Director (Beyond Blood) and the Best Actor in a Lead Role (Soldier Story) categories.
The Chairman of the Jury, Shaibu Hussein, who said that every year in the last 12 years, hundreds of films from across the continent and its Diaspora arrive at the AMAA offices, noted that he had received close to 485 movie entries from over 60 countries this year, mostly within Africa and also from around the world out of which the Jury had only considered about 65 in different genres for nomination in about 26 categories.
"We commend the work done by the Academy's College of Screeners and at the other levels of pre-selection. We salute their professionalism and thoroughness and note that the selection of films and nominations truly reflects the Pan-African vision for the future of the African film and media industry that AMAA promotes. Indeed, we are encouraged by the ever increasing number of entries being received from a larger geographic sphere and we look forward to the continuation of this trend," he said.
Hussein who reiterated the fact that AMAA was created to encourage African originality in film making, however lamented the gradual decline of the submission of films on children. He said that the academy received over 600 entries, out of which only 65 got the consideration of the Council of Jury.
Founder AMAA, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, at the event redressed the purpose of AMAA. "In AMAA, we understand the fact that creativity is a circle. AMAA encourages peace through creativity", she noted.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed along with Governor Wike and other dignitaries who stayed till the end of the show at the early hour of Sunday morning, said Nollywood has set up the template for African film makers. He promised that government would in this regard continue to partner with the vibrant motion picture industry in Nigeria, against piracy as well as provide intervention fund for the sustenance of the industry.
Wike on his part assured that Port Harcourt and Rivers State in general was safe for everyone. "To you all present here, I wish to remind you that Port Harcourt is very safe for businesses and visitors. That is the reason my government would continually encourage the vibrant motion picture industry. The presence of you all here tonight and since you came in, is a testimony that Rivers State is a safe place."
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