Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Film Academy (AFA), Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, organizers of the famous African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in this interview, during the recently-concluded Lagos leg of the national roadshow Screening of AMAA’s 2012 Winning Movies in Ibadan and Benin, explains the phenomenon called Nollywood, film marketers, and also how the glamour and popularity of the AMA Awards has even taken her by surprise. Excerpts:
Why is AMAA involved in a roadshow?
If you have been following the road show we have been doing, it is basically to sanitize people on the movies we have. AMAA and the Africa International Film (AFRIF) are jointly hosting a celebration for Nollywood at 20, we decided to celebrate Nollywood at 20, from 1992-2012 and basically as we all know that celebrating Nollywood is an important landmark, we know that the guild will be doing their celebrations all through next year and so we felt it is important to jump start it. We have a conference which is the Diamond in Nigeria’s Jewel, it is basically looking at the past, the present and future of Nollywood. So we would be discussing finance, how the money is coming into the industry and going out, distribution- what is the best way for it to be distributed while looking at online medium. It would be a one-day event and a very big gala evening the next day to wrap it up and we do know that there would be quite a number of people would be coming in for this event, we think that it is a major thing for us to be doing. Nollywood’s Diamond in Nigeria’s Jewel would be between the 6th and 7th of December.
What is the role of AFRIF?
In the course of the year, we wanted AFRIF to find a permanent home and in the course of getting one, there are different logistics attached to it. In fact, we would be signing with the governor soon and when that is done, it is going to be permanently in that state. The facility where AFRIF is been held yearly is undergoing development and of course when the whole place is completed, AFRIF would open it up again, the governor is doing a big launch for it. So we can’t do it there because part of the condition for holding it there is to use it as a medium to open that state.
You keep saying “that state” are we not supposed to know the state?
No, after the signing with the governor, it would be made public.
Nollywood at 20, a lot of people say the pioneer film Living in Bondage, is yet to be seen by them, any plans to re-produce the film?
Yes, there would be a retrospective on the films that are landmarks in the Nollywood industry, there would be some films that would be chosen and shown. We are trying to see whether the movies can be given out at the event.
How are these movies going to be chosen?
If you look at our face book page for the past one month, we have been asking people to tell us their top Nollywood films in the last 20 years starting from 1992, we are compiling the list at the moment. Everybody has their landmarks and there would definitely be screening and probably at the same venue so in between the seminars, there would be screening.
One of the aims of the road show is to further re-enforce the credibility of the processes that holds the AMAA award, can you expatiate on that?
Well all the time, people say, why did a particular movie win AMAA since they haven’t seen it and why is it been judged? Most movies that are not done in Nigeria are not seen in Nigeria and across Africa, that is one of the reasons why distribution is a major problem, so we have taken permission from people to screen films that are not seen here like Otelo Burning and so people who have watched the films and have seen why AMAA is difficult to win because of the quality and the standard that we keep on pushing and we also appreciate the work of the jury we have behind the scene.
What is AMAA doing in terms of distribution (or marketing) so that more people are made aware of what the academy is doing?
Well, we have partnered with someone who have built AMAA blogs which is an online platform for AMAA winning films, but you have to understand that it is still for the Diaspora market, the biggest market will still going to be DVD’s in the Nigerian market, that is why in Lagos you would notice that we have two major workshops, each one for two days on how to write a business plan for the marketers, that was our way of trying to prepare them for our You Win project the government is getting in place for them and so in preparation for that, people were made to come and learn how to put a business plan together and that is what we are doing, showing them how to put a business plan together and packaging to get them ready for the You Win project, that way we are helping, we can’t do the application for them, but can teach them how to make sure that the application would actually get some answers.
On the modality of screening of these films
We are trying to stay within our own limitations but we know that there are companies that are trying to partner with the academy. One of the things that have come out of the screenings that we have we have been doing is that they have asked that Silverbird takes care of one of the distribution of one of the movies that we have been screening- Otelo burning, so basically there would be films that people would read and tweet about. We are trying to go to the student areas as well because they are the ones that can spend the time doing the working out and we are never going to meet the demand of trying to show screenings, I mean even trying to show screening last weekend in Lagos was difficult.
In terms of lifting content and quality of Nigerian movies, what is AMAA doing?
In every film industry, there is the A, B and C range, and Nollywood is the same, there are good movies and they are the ones that go to the cinemas. There are producers who are willing to get the money behind and go to the cinemas, you can’t force people. People have to decide to graduate to that level, you can only show them by all the years they haven’t won an AMAA. I am not on the jury of AMAA so there are no favourites. We do have A-list films and I think this year it’s been quite a few that have gone to the cinemas. So technically you can look at it from that aspect and next year it would even be more, you have Wood Rush, the Meeting, the Assassin, Amina, Last flight to Abuja, there are quite a few coming out and I think we have had two films in a month coming out in the cinemas this year for Nollywood.
So with AMAA trying to showcase the best of Nollywood, can we say we are getting there?
Yes we are, and that is one of the beautiful things about AFRIF, we are trying to get the best films from all over the world for people to come and watch and this is to the film makers, if you don’t watch films you will never know what is happening out there and how good your counterparts are. We spend so much time choosing the best films in the circuit for AFRIF, it takes us months visiting all the festivals from Toronto to Berlin and Durban to watch all of these films and bring them out here. When you find that film makers do not make time to watch those films, they are never going to see the trends and they would probably be seeing what they have been seeing and not looking at the world’s trends, the world is moving o in the cinemas, the cameras are changing everyday and technicalities different. So basically, when AFRIF comes along, I expect film makers especially the younger ones to avail themselves of the opportunity and watch every single movie they can because it would help them to know what is going on and correct their mistakes.
On the seeming marketers’ stranglehold on Nollwwod
You have to understand that for them, it is pure business. There are two types of film making, the commercial and celebration film making which is where the arts and festivals come to play.
How do you choose the movies that are selected for the awards?
I don’t choose them, they get submitted but in terms of AFRIF, it’s quite challenging because there is a lot of good films out there, I mean I go to a film festival and I spend every single hour possible watching films, so if I’m at a film festival I probably spend a few hours in my hotel room but the rest of the time, am trying to catch as many films as possible to see what will work here in Nigeria and what our people are going to like.
How would you rate Nollywood as an insider for over ten years?
Nollywood is growing and for me, nobody would change what Nollywood has done which is changing the face of Africa and going to the cinemas, it has encouraged people to go ahead and make films without waiting for anyone. For me, Nollywood is worth celebrating, it is a celebration of the Nigerian spirit of entrepreneurship. Even if it is straight to DVD, the fact that people are making money from it and keeping them out of the roads and troubles, I celebrate them. Every single Nollywood should be celebrated for achieving something, creating heroes for Africa and creating stars where there is none and creating employment.
Most of the awards were focused on movies from other countries, what’s the missing link here, in terms of the movies produced in Nigeria?
One of the things we have to accept is that a lot of people in Nigeria learn on the job, so training is key to the change that Nollywood would have and it is a gradual process. If you look at all the films in the cinemas, you will find out that they are produced by almost all the trained film makers. Right now we are running a competition called “My Beautiful Africa, it’s really targeted at young people to make short films, not more than five to seven minutes long, because if you can tell a story in five minutes then you will know that your films do not have to be in six parts. So, it’s the whole idea of my beautiful Africa, a training programme, and so beginning with that you start to look at the Nigerian idea and of course Jos is turning out a lot of good film makers, I think the landscape of the Nigerian cinemas would change more in the next five years.
All the people that came out from Jos are working, all the ones I know, a lot of them are in Calabar right now, some are here in Lagos working, while about eight of them work with me, and this year, the whole crew that produced AMAA was from Jos, so I really don’t think they are not working. A lot of them would do nothing else aside that, some of them are the ones doing Jacobs Cross and Tinsel.
Looking towards AMAA 2013, what’s do we expect?
For AMAA next year, our theme is Africa one, Africa without borders. Basically we have nominations in Malawi in March and then we would have AMAA on the 14th of April probably in Nigeria. The AMAA can be held anywhere because we haven’t closed the gates, but we have closed the gates for the nominations that is Malawi, but the gates for the AMAA ended on the 31st of October and so we haven’t sat down to have a meeting to that effect, so it can be held anywhere.
What differentiates AMAA from every other award?
Our transparency and the level of our jury set us apart, transparency in terms of election starting from nomination up to the finals and the quality of our jury, every film is watched from beginning to end. Our juries are people who have worked in festivals all over the world on Africa cinemas for a minimum of 15years.