Night of a thousand stars at Lilongwe

Night of a thousand stars at Lilongwe

Movie stars from across the continent converged on Malawi's capital for the nomination party of the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Awards. by Akintayo Abodunrin

BINGU International Conference Centre, Lilongwe, Malawi, was agog on Friday, March 15 for the nomination gala of the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Stars from Nigeria and Africa lit up the party hosted by Malawi's President, Dr Joyce Banda, who couldn't hide her joy at the glamorous event held in her country.

"The event that many of us have heard about; read about it; and those of us who are privileged have had an opportunity to have watch it on TV has finally come to Malawi. I am talking about the glamorous Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) nomination event," began Mrs. Banda at the gala also attended by her husband, Richard Banda and top officials of her administration.

Mrs. Banda continued by noting that the event and the Film-in- a -Box Training programme that AMAA and her government conducted, marked a major milestone in the development of Malawi's creative art industry. "Our country has a pool of raw talent in film making that remain untapped and undeveloped. My government has identified the creative art industry as one of the areas that it wants to develop in order to create employment for our youth...Development of the creative art industry is one of the major components of the Youth Job Creation Initiative. We have learnt from the Hollywood and the Nollywood the potential that the film industry has in creating employment particularly for the youth," she said.

The Malawian President also touched on the importance of artists, noting that they "play a crucial role in the social and economic development of our society. Through the film industry, artists enrich our daily lives with their various artistic expressions. Apart from entertaining the masses, we also gain a lot of lessons from the films we watch. It is for this very fact that my government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is working hard to promote the arts and culture industry by among events conducting the Malawi Cultural Festival; and facilitating many more arts and culture festivals including films."

The country's Minister of Tourism and Culture, Racheal Mazombwe Zulu, expressed hope that the awards will "be a springboard for unleashing the talent from our vibrant youths." Like the chief executive officer of AMAA, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, who never relents in asking corporate organizations to support filmmaking, Mrs. Zulu said it would be nice if companies came to the assistance of filmmakers.

Director General, Bayelsa State Tourism Development Agency, Ebizi Rosemary Brown, disclosed that several programmes have been lined up to showcase the state's rich custom and heritage during the AMAA week. She assured that the Bayelsa State government, host of this year's award ceremony holding in Yenagoa on April 20, is not limiting its support to filmmakers to just hosting the ceremony. Plans, she said, "are well in place by the Seriake Dickson administration to establish a film city with all the support industry in Yenagoa. He has taken bold steps in massive development in tourism, social welfare and infrastructure to make the state conducive for the film industry and for investors."

Outstanding P-Square
Expectedly, it wasn't just a night for speeches as various activities spiced up the event. Young poet, Chigo Gondwe, recited a poem while the 11-man Kamuzu Barracks Gospel Singers rendered sonorous songs in the local Chichewa language. The concert by P-Square at the Polo Grounds, Lilongwe, was the icing on the cake. The thousands of Malawians who attended the gig couldn't have enough of the musicians who had them grooving all night.

The nomination party, attended by Nollywood stars including O.C. Ukeje, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Nse Etim-Ekpe, Charles Novia and Chioma Chukwuka-Akpota amongst others climaxed with the announcement of the nominees into the available 25 categories by members of the jury. Asantewa Olatunji, Ayuko Babu, Berni Goldblast, Keith Shiri and Steve Ayorinde judged entries for this year's awards.

Chair, AMAA College of Screeners, Shaibu Husseini, had earlier disclosed that the Academy received 671 movies and that screeners had a tough time because the quality of entries has improved.

The nominees
The nominees announced on the night were an interesting mix with movie buffs expectantly waiting to see who will take home the awards on April 20.

Four Nigerians, the late veteran actor, Justus Esiri, OC Ukeje, Bimbo Manuel and Femi Jacobs are in the frame for the Best Actor Prize with three others from across Africa. While Esiri earned the nomination with his last film, 'Assassin's Practice', Ukeje was nominated for Novia's newest work, 'Alan Poza'; Manuel for his 'Heroes and Zeroes' and Jacobs for 'The Meeting'. Also vying for the prize is Lindani Nkosi for his role in 'Zama Zama',

Hlomla Dandala for 'The Contract' and Amurin Wumnembom for 'Ninah's Dowry'.

Nigerians Rita Dominic and Yvonne Okoro are among the six contenders for the Best Actress award. Okoro was nominated for 'The Contract' and Dominic for 'The Meeting'. The duo however have a battle on their hands with Malawi's Florence Suya (Last Fishing Boat), South Africa's Florence Masebe (Elelwani), Mariam Ouedraogo (Moi Zaphira) and Cameroun's Mbutung Seikeh (Ninah's Dowry).

Four Nigerian actors, Gabriel Afolayan (Hoodrush), Ali Nuhu (Blood and Henna), Alfred Atungu (Twin Sword) and Ikponmwosa Gold (Confusion Na Wa) were nominated for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category. Kenyan, Olwenya Maina, also made the list for his role in 'Nairobi Half Life'.

Vying for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role are Hermelinda Cimela (Virgin Magarida); Patience Ozokwo (Turning Point); Linda Ejiofor (The Meeting); Crista Eka (Ninah's Dowry) and Foluke Daramola (Cobweb).

Renowned director, Niji Akanni has a mountain to climb with five others contending for the Best Director award. Akanni, a past nominee in the same category for 'Aramotu' was included in the list this time for 'Heroes and Zeroes'. The other nominees are Kenneth Gyang (Confusion Na Wah); Shemu Jonah (Last Fishing Boat); Shirley Frimpong Manso (Contract); David Kitounga (Nairobi Half Life) and Ntshavheni Wa Luruli (Elelwani).

Two Nigerian movies, 'Last Flight to Abuja' and 'Confusion Na Wa' made the Best Film category. The other nominated movies are Kenyan movie, 'Nairobi Half Life'; Cameroun's 'Ninah's Dowry'; Malawian movie, 'Last Fishing Boat'; South Africa's 'Elelwani' and Mozambican movie, 'Virgin Margarida'.


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