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AMVCA: An appraisal of continental reward platform

AMVCA ceremony has grown to become the continent’s most recognised awards ceremony by riding on a wave of popularity, glitz, glamour and controversy…

Olu James

Since the inaugural Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) ceremony on March 9, 2013 at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, a lot of opinions have found their way into the public domain, arguing for the relevance and credibility, or lack of these, of the Pan African awards.

Apart from having Multichoice, a media giant, as its backbone, AMVCA has grown to become the continent’s most recognised awards ceremony by riding on a wave of popularity, glitz, glamour and controversy, with the various voting categories garnering critical ‘talkability’ every year. For this year’s edition scheduled to hold on September 1, close to 3,000 entries have been received from the length and breadth of Africa, and of course, the diaspora. The constantly increasing number of entries annually is a testament to the acceptance of the AMVCA; even after five years of existence, there must be a few things being done correctly to sustain this level of acclaim and acceptance.

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The organisers of the reward platform say they aim for it to celebrate the contributions of African filmmakers (actors, directors, technicians etc.) to the success of the continent’s film industry. So far, about 151 awards have been presented to filmmakers in recognition of their works. As trivial as it may seem to an outsider, music star, Folarin Falana aka Falz, knew what he was doing when he sang in one of his hits, Bad Baddo Baddest thus: “They want to join the bhad gang, we can initiate. Which musician do you know is havin’ AMVCA ehn”.

But not only does it add ‘AMVCA winner’ to a filmmaker’s CV, there’s something winning an AMVCA does to an already brilliant performer. The likes of Falz, Somkele Idhalama, CJ Obasi, Kunle Afolayan, Kemi Lala-Akindoju have gone on to achieve even greater individual excellence after receiving their first AMVCA plaques. For many others like Oluseyi Asurf, who won the award for Best Short Film in 2016 and Rotimi Salami, who won as Best Supporting Actor in 2017, winning the award as a “relatively unknown” talent has hurled them into the consciousness of those within and outside the industry. Asurf has gone on to make a hugely successful Hakkunde by leveraging the ‘AMVCA winner’ tag that he used to garner help via crowdfunding.

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The AMVCA has also been able to contribute meaningfully to the recognition of women working in the film and TV industry as well as helping them emerge from the shadows of their male counterparts. Apart from the Best Actress categories, for obvious reasons, four of the five winners of the special Trailblazer Award have been women. Only the deserving CJ Obasi has punctuated a lineup of Michelle Bello, Kemi Lala-Akindoju, Ivie Okujaye, and Somkele Idhalama. Two of the films that have emerged as Best Overall Movie (Contract and Dry) are films directed by women – Shirley Frimpong-Manso and Stephanie Linus. It is easy to see that there is a premeditated push in the direction of spotlighting women who are doing brilliant work in front of the cameras as well as behind the scenes.

The AMVCA Industry Merit Award, which kicked off with the awards in 2013, is another strong selling point of the platform that further enhances its integrity. Aside the filmmakers currently working in the industry and who can put up works eligible for awards, there are other industry veterans who have done amazing, brilliant work in their prime and who deserve recognition in a continent not well-known for its prowess in celebrating veterans. It is for these veterans that the Industry Merit Awards exists. Filmmakers, but almost “forgotten heroes” such as Amaka Igwe, Sadiq Daba, Chika Okpala, Pete Edochie, Bukky Ajayi and Olu Jacobs have been recipients of the Industry Merit Award. In Ajayi’s case, the AMVCA was almost impeccable with the timing of recognising her with the award. She died just a few months later but she undoubtedly would have died a happy woman knowing that her efforts were recognised by Africa through AMVCA’s Industry Merit Awards.

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Also, of all the things under the sun one may accuse the AMVCA of, shoddy organisation of its ceremonies cannot be one of them. Someone who has read more than one of my articles will know that I am a huge fan of how the organisers put together the event. The glitz and glamour of it all are something they take seriously, and whether we like it or not, the glitz and glamour are some of the reasons we want to watch, say, the Academy Awards or the British Academy Film and Television Awards (BAFTA). This, of course, quaffs a lot of money.

Someone notable in the industry once threw a shade in the direction of the AMVCA when he claimed that the awards platform on whose Jury he sat was “not a popularity contest”. Good! The AMVCA has never claimed to be a popularity contest and most of our criticisms should take cognizance of that. AMVCA has been more about celebrating the “show” in showbiz and it is wrong for us to fault the organisers for choosing the water they wish to swim in. The AMVCA has chosen an ocean to celebrate African filmmakers, especially the previously neglected female gender and it is doing brilliant work swimming in that ocean.

The AMVCA is not perfect, no award platform in the world is. But it is, without a doubt, the biggest, grandest and most important celebration of film and television talent in Africa; and given its stellar track record, successes and growth, there is no evidence to suggest that the crown will be shifting heads anytime soon.


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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

Writer and editor.

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