Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha report that the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, AMVCA, was a spectacle of glitz, emotions and bewilderment highlighted by a stream of tears dumb struck winners

Not too long ago, a compact call card holder became one of the most sought after objects on the Nigerian entertainment scene. The little box containing access pass into what is steadily emerging as one of the most glamorous events in Africa- Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, AMVCA, the continental reward and appreciation platform for the movie industry, became an item many were willing to give an arm and a leg for.

Almost every discourse revolved on or gravitated towards the AMVCA. You were believed to be with the in-crowd if you had an invite. What section of the Eko Hotels and Suites Convention Centre venue you would be seated did not matter. The pertinent issue was to get inside the hall, first and witness the show first hand. Not minding that it was going to be broadcast live on all eight Africa Magic channels on DStv and GOtv, many who did not have an invite still came to the venue hoping against hope that they could have access. But the organizers deliberately made it a scarce commodity, perhaps to increase the profile of the event as the Oscars of the African film industry.

At the venue, everyone clutched the little black box with pride. Many would later find out that there were two cards; one, for the awards. There was another for the after party. The AMVCA came in both raucous and silent whispers. But first, let’s start from the beginning. There did not seem to be enough of both cards. Access to the after party appeared to be restricted.

The award kicked off on a very glamorous note. Expectedly, when practitioners in the film industry gather to celebrate their works, they do so with incredible glam. The fourth edition of the AMVCA sponsored by Amstel Malta was no less different. Being capped the biggest platform to celebrate the creative industry on the continent, it was not unexpected to see the red carpet oozing with so much glitz and glamour from celebrities and wannabes.

From start to finish, the organisers did a brilliant job in retaining its stylish and prestigious reputation. As Nigeria or Africa cannot lay claim to inventing award ceremonies, the effort to copy America’s Hollywood and the goings-on on the E! Channel was palpable. Right from the red carpet where Eku Edewor, Ozzy Agu, Uti Nwachukwu and Helen Paul besieged the celebrities with pleasant and sometimes, nerve-racking questions in front of the camera, to a studio where the local fashion police either thumbed-down or high-fived the celebrities for their dress sense, it was a glittering spectacle that fascinated everyone observing trends and emerging fashion designers in the industry. Notable Nigerian fashion designers like Ejiro Amos Tafiri, Ayo Van Elmar, Mudi Africa, Luxol and Mai Atafo took the lead.

In a true E! style, all the red-carpet presenters communicated simultaneously without a glitch, and not one action was missed by the cameras. The lobby all the way to the main hall was also red-carpeted. Inside, the main hall was demarcated with curtains in such a way that on one side, guests mingled and gossiped as they clinked their glasses in a meet-and-greet session that preceded the main. The hall exuded panache with the smoky lighting mood and the award stage built in a continuum of glitz. It was dome-shaped with three entrances while the background screens displayed nominees and winners for most of the night.

Perhaps, the most important takeaway from the awards was the ability of the organizers to keep to time. There was no room for the peculiar Nigerian time to rear its ugly head. At exactly the scheduled time of broadcast (4pm for red carpet and 7pm for the show), the event took off.

Opening the event was a troupe of dancers known as Star Act Dance Company dressed in a white and gold attire similar to the South African Zulu tribe. They thrilled the audience with their different moves. The crowd was astonished when one of the male dancers carried out an amazing back-flip, jumping as high as eight feet in the air over three rows of his colleagues. It was an astonishing feat that got everyone clapping.

IK Osakioduwa returned as the male host of the award. This time, he was in a different company. Replacing Zimbabwean-born Vimbai was the South African TV host Minnie Dhlamini who made quite an impression when she greeted the audience in Igbo.

Opening the award was a video speech by the CEO of MNet Africa, Yolisa Phahle, who was seated in the crowd. In the video, she urged the guests as well as the million of viewers watching the event on the DStv and GOtv platforms to patronise home-grown films while reiterating the company’s commitment to support the creative industry. Her speech was brief and to the point

The first award of the night ‘Best Art Director’ was presented by Ghanaian actor Chris Attoh to Frank Raja Arase for the movie ‘The Refugees’. It was followed by the award for the ‘Best TV series’ won by Ariyike Oladipo for ‘Daddy’s Girls’. Ariyike’s speech was within the allotted two minutes, a trait that the host IK commended and advised subsequent winners to emulate. In retrospect, it was a subtle hint to the winners that long acceptance speech would not be tolerated at the show. Stanlee Ohikhuare was the first to get the bite when he received his award for the Best Lighting Designer for the movie ‘Common Man’. At first, the audience thought it was a technical glitch, as Stanlee continued to talk and gesticulate to himself. To the audience who could not hear him, he looked like a deaf and dumb person trying to communicate. Unknown to him, he’d been cut off even while he continued talking. By the time two or three winners suffered similar fate, it dawned on everyone that brevity was the watchword at the awards. By the time Folarin Falana, better known as Falz the Bad Guy won his first AMVCA as the Best Actor in Comedy Series for his role in Jenifa’s Diary, he couldn’t help but joke about the brevity and quickly made his speech. It seemed that the organisers noticed the inconvenience the tact caused and decided to let the winners speak to their heart’s content.

This year’s awards although well-paced and packaged beautifully lacked all the theatrical surprises of last year. There was no OC Ukeje and IK singing, ‘Shoki’ from the crowd. Rather, Yemi Alade, South African soul singer Zonke and Flavour whose girlfriend Anna Banner was somewhere in the crowd cheering him alongside a friend were the only musical performances of the night.

However, what it lacked in musical entertainment, it provided in form of comedy.
During commercial breaks, comedians were brought on stage to provide comic relief. There was the Ugandan, Patrick Idringi whose stage name is Salvador who gave Nigerian comedians a run for their money. Where the Nigerians failed to put the audience in stitches with their recycled jokes, Salvador and South African Thomas Gumede delivered loads of fresh and thought provoking jokes. Salvador, for instance insisted on being welcome on stage with fanfare deserving of a star. The host and audience grudgingly obliged him with a benefit of the doubt, but by the time he left the stage, they were reeling with laughter, wishing he could continue. He left a good impression as a major highlight on a night that he easily shone with brilliance.

Gumede could also not be forgotten taking a swipe at a white man in the audience. The spontaneity of his Oscar diversity joke at the white man whom he said looked uncomfortable because he was in the midst of black people endeared him to the crowd. However, unlike Chris Rock who used a monologue to slightly placate his brethren at the 88th Academy Awards held recently, Gumede lauded the African film industry before switching to a series of jokes revolving on criminal acts in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

Other comical relief were provided by comedians who doubled as presenters like Mr. Ibu, Chigurl, Kunle Idowu (Frank Donga) and Helen Paul.

Besides the entertainment angle of the show, there was no social media interaction, even though the hosts repeatedly urged the viewers and audience to tweet with the hashtag AMVCA2016. Perhaps, it was due to the poor network reception at the venue.

As the show continued, it entered a season of ubiquitous emotions. First-timers couldn’t suppress their excitement and at times were too excited to find the right words to express their feelings. For instance, when the spotlight shone on Malawi for taking home their first AMVCA trophy in the regional category ‘Best Movie-Southern Africa’, the winner Joyce Mhango Chavula whose movie ‘Lilongwe’ won the award seized the moment to preach Jesus Christ on stage. While it was a dream come true for Elizabeth Michael whose movie ‘Mapenzi’ was the Best Movie in East Africa, she said she’d been dreaming of the moment since she was five years old. There was also Uche Nancy who won the Best Costume Designer for the movie ‘Dry’ who was utterly speechless.

Folarin Falana who came into spotlight with his comedy skits was happily joined by Funke ‘Jennifer’ Akindele as he collected his award for Best Actor in a Comedy. A similar scene was reenacted with Paul Igwe whose cooking show Usekwu Igbo won the Best Indigenous Language TV series-Igbo. The presenter of the show joyfully ran on stage to hug him.

For Daniel K. Daniel, winning the Best Actor in a Drama category that had big names like Majid Michel left him stunned. Unable to express himself very well, he rounded off with a strong ‘Thank you’ but his counterpart Adesua Etomi (Best Actress) seemed very controlled and delivered a very precise speech. Both winners also went home with luxury packages from Dubai Tourism.

Winner of ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Sambassa Nzeribe, touched every heart in the hall when he disclosed that he was an orphan whose education was supported by the women of St. Mary’s Catholic Church who offered him scholarship to study Creative Arts at the University of Lagos.

Winner of the ‘Best Documentary’, Remi Vaughan Richards, dedicated her award to the artistes who never lived to see the documentary ‘Faaji Agba’.

Kemi Lala Akindoju couldn’t believe her ears when she was announced the Trailblazer Act of the Year. The award came with a GS5 SUV from GAC Motors. While doing a roll call of all her friends and supporters amidst tears, she made a slip when she suggested that the organisers lied to her about the award. Does this mean that the winners were given a tip before the main show?
However, veteran actress Bukky Ajayi who was wheeled onto the stage to receive her Legendary Award evoked so much emotion. Overwhelmed by the standing ovation, she broke down in tears but quickly recovered to appreciate the gesture.

“I just want to say to all of you, my friends even my male friends, thank you. There are people I might have offended, please forgive me.”

She controlled the tears again and continued: “I wish I can stand up, but I will fall down if I stand up, and you all are standing for me?”
Another loud applause erupted in the hall before she signed out with a peace sign. Sadiq Daba who was also a recipient of same award was absent.

For some unknown reasons, the host IK seemed to be wary of the tension in the hall as he repeatedly asked the Thespians to support one another irrespective of their misgivings. Unfortunately, they paid no heed to his pleas. This could be clearly seen when old-timers like Charles Novia and Genevieve Nnaji were called as nominees. The crowd showed less enthusiasm compared to the rousing reception for the new kids on the block. Apparently, there was a gang up against the old generation of Thespians in the hall. Perhaps, this was what Charles Novia referred to in his piece ‘The Bleh and Boom of the AMVCA.’ Novia sensed the risk faced by the old-timers in the industry for a voting award like the AMVCAs. Apparently, the days of past glory are over as the new generation is leveraging on every medium possible to increase their fan base. However, disgruntled voices were heard when Usekwu Igbo won the award for the Best Indigenous TV series in Igbo. Not a few argued that a cooking show did not deserve to win in a category meant for TV drama series. Same opinion was reiterated when Genevieve Nnaji’s film ‘Road to Yesterday’ won the award for Best West African movie. There was no show of enthusiasm, rather there was bewilderment in the audience.

Apart from the wide generational gap at the awards, the deliberate or unconscious omission of some of the known names who passed on during the roll of honour didn’t settle well with many in the audience.

The issue of diversity of the awards was raised during the press conference. Non-Nigerians urged the organisers to reach out to other parts of the continent to ensure full participation. But this could hardly be an issue on a night that featured presenters from Kenya and Tanzania, comedians from Uganda and South Africa and a South African singer among others. However, the organizers promised to do their best not only in training but in making sure that other African countries have an opportunity to host the show.

The big winners of the night were Stephanie Linus’ ‘Dry’ which won Best Overall Movie, Best Costume Designer and Best Sound Editor. The producer who took home an SUV from GAC Motors seized the opportunity to campaign against VVF. She was joined on stage by the 12 year-old girl who played a prominent role in the film. Linus said she believed the award came to her because her film opened a discussion on a subject that was hardly approached.
Ayanda also stole the spotlight in the categories ‘Best Make-up Artiste’ and ‘Best Writer in TV Series’. Other winners included ‘Tell me Sweet Something’.

This year, there were 83 projects submitted by 114 nominees. See the full list of the winners below.

WINNERS
BEST OVERALL MOVIE (AFRICA)
DRY
STEPHANIE LINUS

BEST WRITER OF A MOVIE/TV SERIES
Ayanda
TRISH MALONE

BEST COSTUME
DRY
UCHE NANCY

BEST MAKEUP
Ayanda
LOUIZA CAROLE

BEST LIGHTING
COMMON MAN
STANLEY OHIKHUARE

BEST DIRECTOR
TELL ME SWEET SOMETHING
AKIN OMOTOSHO

BEST PICTURE EDITOR
Rebecca
SHIRLEY FRIMPONG – MANSO

BEST DOCUMENTARY
FAAJI AGBA
REMI VAUGHAN – RICHARDS

BEST ART DIRECTOR (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
THE REFUGEES
FRANK RAJA ARASE

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER
TELL ME SWEET SOMETHING
PAUL MICHAELSON

BEST SOUND EDITOR (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
DRY
MARQUEX JOSE GUILLERMO

BEST TELEVISION SERIES
ARIYIKE OLADIPO

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
FOLARIN FALANA

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
DANIEL K. DANIEL

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
FUNKE AKINDELE

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
ADESUA ETOMI

BEST MOVIE – SOUTHERN AFRICA
JOYCE MHANGO CHAVULA

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
SAMBASSA NZERIBE

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (MOVIE/TV SERIES)
TUNBOSUN AIYEDIHIN

BEST SHORTFILM OR ONLINE VIDEO
OLUSEYI AMUWA

BEST INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE MOVIE/TV SERIES – YORUBA
ABIODUN JIMOH AND JUMOKE ODETOLA

Best Movie – West Africa (Drama/Comedy)
CHINNY ONWUGBENU, GENVIEVE NNAJI, CHICHI NWOKO

BEST INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE MOVIE/TV SERIES- IGBO
PAUL IGWE

BEST INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE MOVIE/TV SERIES – HAUSA
SALISU BALARABE

BEST INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE MOVIE/TV SERIES – SWAHILI
JOSEPHAT LUKAZA

BEST MOVIE – EAST AFRICA
ELIZABETH MICHAEL