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They were dubbed the “African Oscars” even before they were held, but on the night, the AfricaMagic Viewers’ Choice Awards were far more interesting than the Academy Awards. Mostly because this is a show made by Africans for Africans, celebrating excellence in film-making.
Celebrities from across the continent dropped everything to attend the inaugural awards. They included Big Brother’s Uti Nwachukwu and Nic Wang’ondu, Nigerian actresses Genevieve Nnaji and Patience Ozokwor, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, and South Africans Rosie Motene, Thomas Gumede, Lance Stehr, Akin Omotoso and Tim Greene.
Since the African film industry is still growing, you can understand why we don’t know our African celebs the way Americans know theirs at any red carpet event.
Also, you get the feeling that we are still in the habit of celebrating our own and not looking beyond our borders, so when we finally all meet at a cross-continental ceremony such as this, we are rooting only for the people we know. Here’s hoping that in a few years from now the African film industry will have had enough cross-pollination of actors and directors so that the celebrations aren’t about continental competition but excellence in film. For example, in this first awards showcase, the competition was a fierce affair between South Africa and the host nation, Nigeria, as the two had the most nominations.
Held in partnership between MultiChoice and Nigeria’s top malt drink, Amstel Malta, the showcase and the pre-party took place in Lagos last weekend. It was hosted by Big Brother Africa host IK, and fellow Big Brother Africa product ex-housemate Vimbai Mutinhiri. They did a sterling job in effortlessly breathing life into the show. As with any awards show, there were some technical glitches, but the two hosts did so well with their damage control skills that you almost didn’t notice.
And for those who were at the venue, when the show cut for ad breaks, the pair continued with off-the-cuff skits that kept the audience in stitches.
However, being hosted in Nigeria, the capital of flamboyance, you had to make sure you were not at a fashion show instead. This is understandable as Nigeria is famous for its colourful fabrics and in-your-face jewellery and local designers must have been busy before the event as everyone was clad in something African.
When you hear the sounds of Lagos, many things come to mind: the huge population, the high crime rate, impossible traffic and so on. Well, there is some of that – every country has its problems – but still, none of that came into play when it came to the success of the night the awards were held. In fact, we stayed in a good hotel, but it had several power cuts during our stay and concerns were that this problem would affect the show since it was quite near.
However, as was seen by the millions watching live TV across the continent, the show went very well for an inaugural attempt.
For South Africa it was even sweeter because we walked away with 10 accolades. Sara Blecher, the director of Otelo Burning, accepted the most coveted award – Best Film Overall – for a film that received half of the 28 nominations. Otelo Burning also won for Best Make-up Artist, Best Art Director and Best Lighting Design.
Greene, the writer and director of Skeem, won Best Writer in a Comedy and Best Comedy Film.
Omotoso and his crew, which included Motene and Kae-Kazim, must have grown tired as they spent the night running between their designated seats and the stage to accept their awards. Omotoso nabbed the Best Film Director gong for Man on Ground.
Africa’s favourite daughters of the screen, Nnaji and Funke Akindele-Oloyede, surprisingly left empty-handed, although critics had earlier predicted otherwise.
The performances by Femi Kuti, Tiwa Savage and Sauti Sol were epic, making you a lot more curious about how much music we South Africans are missing out on.
If we are to go by the success of the first AfricaMagic Viewers’ Choice Awards, then the future of African film is beyond bright. Sooner or later the international market will have to take notice, just as much as we do of their industry’s award ceremonies.