Is The AMVCA Ditching Popularity for Quality?

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The modifications and improvements this year could set the tone for better standards.

When I watched “Breath of Life” late last year, I knew it was a quality movie but I never thought it would become the most-awarded movie at the tenth African Magic Viewers’ Choice Award. The Nollywood industry witnessed the release of some excellent movies last year, including “A Tribe Called Judah” – the highest-grossing movie in Africa. At the time, every conversation with movie enthusiasts in my cycle suggested that movies like Jagun Jagun, The Black Book, A Tribe Called Judah and Orisa would sweep many awards. I was no different. The movies were excellent in production all around; they have exciting, funny episodes and engaging scenes. It was difficult to argue that they might not win an award.

 

Unsurprisingly, “A Tribe Called Judah” was nominated in the Best Movie category for the AMVCA alongside Breath of Life, Mami Wata, The Black Book, Blood Vessel, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Over The Bridge. While the last two are not available to watch for Nigerians, the line-up of the movies in that category showed that Nigerian filmmakers will initiate and build something beyond exception and extraordinary when provided with the right resources. It could be argued that the movies released last year are probably the best releases in recent times, yet. From A Tribe Called Judah breaking the box office record to The Black Book topping the streaming charts in several countries, it is a pivotal moment for Nollywood and it is satisfying to witness this as a young Nigerian.

 

Many predicted that A Tribe Called Judah would sweep several awards at the AMVCA due to its popularity and the high box office numbers it racked up, especially in categories like Best Movie, Best Cinematography and others it was nominated for. After all, awards at the AMVCA used to be based on audience votes. But for #AMVCA10, organisers decided that some categories will be jury-decided and not based on the public votes. Of course, this had a major influence on the direction of the awards. Some would even say that making some categories jury-decided is one of the best modifications AMVCA made this year. It sets a tone for filmmakers to be intentional about putting projects that are deserving of recognition by the standard they exhibit rather than stanship.

 

“Breath of Life” won the most awards at the AMVCA including Best Movie and Best Director and so deservingly so. The performance by the actors and each scene in the movie testifies that the makers produced an emotional masterpiece that ties into different aspects of our lives like history, love and religion. While I may not be sure of the criteria the judges used in awarding Breath of Life as the best movie, I am certain that a large number of people accept that it deserves the flowers it’s given.

 

While I see the introduction of new categories like Best Digital Content, won by Isaac Olayiwola (Layi Wasabi), at the AMVCA as a testament to how inclusive the award has become, there are still boxes that deserve to be filled. For one, the organisers of the award might have to start looking for a new name for the award because a viewer’s choice award is not meant to be determined by a jury. Might I suggest names like the Africa Magic Movies Award or the Africa Magic Awards? The AMVCA might also consider being more inclusive of other African countries, movies and filmmakers. Most of the nominations and awards were for Nigerian movies. This sparks questions of whether or not the AMVCA is an African or Nigerian award, or if there are no deserving movies from other African countries. Have other countries stopped submitting their movies because they believe no matter how many nominations they get, they won’t win anyway? How best can the AMVCA build interest in these awards beyond Nigeria?

 

Essentially, the modifications and improvements this year could set the tone for better standards. As a media and culture person, this is the best AMVCA in recent years for me. The production and organisation of the event, as well as some special awards like the Trailblazer award, won by Chimezie Imo, whets my anticipation for the next. I believe the adjustments would also spur filmmakers to buckle their belts and produce more exceptional movies that meet aesthetic expectations and viewers’ appeasement. Despite steady improvements, the organisers can still do more in terms of inclusivity and refinement. Nonetheless, the recent AMVCA exemplifies a commitment to celebrating outstanding contributions to African cinema and sets a promising precedent for the future. I am here for it.

Credit: BellaNaija

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