Kenyan ‘Oscars of Africa’ nominees Abandoned in Nigeria
The Africa Movie Academy Awards (Amaas) is a branch of the Africa Film Academy. The Academy is geared towards research, training and propagating filmmaking in Africa.
It is presented annually in recognition of professionals in the African film industry. Founded in 2005 by African Film Academy founder Peace Anyiam Osigwe, the awards recognise directors, actors, writers and other professionals in the film industry with the aim of promoting excellence in the African movie industry.
In the Eastern African region, Kenya produced the most entries for the 2013 award ceremony. Among the Kenyans up for awards were David “Tosh” Gitonga for his film Nairobi Half Life and Ng’endo Mukii for her film Yellow Fever.
Zipporah Kimundu also makes the list with two short films – Burnt Forest and Give Me Back My Home, both based on the Kenya post-election violence of 2007. We spoke to some of the filmmakers about their experience in Nigeria:
Ng’endo Mukii – producer of Yellow Fever
The experience we had in Nigeria can only be termed as unfortunate. We were treated very badly, kept in the airport sitting and laying on the floor without food or water for almost 12 hours (not just once).
An Amaas representative took our passports and disappeared with them for hours, the next thing we knew, the same representative was trying to board a flight to Port Harcourt Airport without us.
The accommodation we were given was so dirty, and degrading, we wondered what exactly was the regular use of the rooms we were sleeping in.
We ate with chickens at our feet and fish bones that had been spat onto the table by the previous user drying by our plates. We used toilets that were leaking, and did not flush. If you had forgotten to carry your own tissue paper roll to the ‘Oscars of Africa’, then you were in for a disaster.
After our first 12-hour nutrition-free stint in the Muhammed Murtalla 2 airport, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, who is the CEO of the Amaas and a Ted Fellow, sent two of her brothers to come and speak with us on her behalf.
Raymond Osigwe insisted that the small ‘dramas’ of the Amaas and our discomfort were ‘not intentional’ but they were a result of being in a ‘developing country which we all understand.’
I would like to underline, that the AMVCAs were held in Lagos just over a month ago, and the AMVCAs treated their guests in a professional manner.
They kept us comfortable and we were never starved, or held in airports without our passports for hours. I think it is an insult to the people of Nigeria, for the Osigwe family and the organisers of the Amaas to blame their lack of planning, accountability, and their substandard performance on anyone other than themselves. It is shameful that they invited people from all over Africa and the world, only to treat their guests in a dehumanising way.
The awards itself is a noble idea. I can only speak about my own category (Short Films) which was won by Akosua Owusu for her film Kwaku Ananse (Ghana).
She is a well respected filmmaker, and I felt the award was well deserved. There was little celebration of filmmakers outside of the Nollywood circle, with five Lifetime Achievement Awards and the three Pillars of Nollywood Awards being kept within the country.
The ceremony was mostly held in Pigeon English, so again you could tell that the focus was local not international.I would still recommend filmmakers to submit to the Amaas.
It gives you some form of credibility in the field and some exposure. I am not sure I would recommend attending the actual event, but trust me it gives you a new appreciation of life.
I just want to mention that while in Naija with the Amaas, you might be asked to take on a new name, mine was Mr Jonadab Egbowon. They might ask you to board a flight with this new name printed on a ticket. Just know, no matter what the Amaas tells you, this is illegal, you might be arrested.
Zipporah Kimundu – producer Burnt Forest and Give Me Back My Home
Before I left I had been warned that it was going to be crazy but nothing I was told prepared me for what happened to us when we were in Nigeria. My whole point for going to the Amaas was to network and interact with other stakeholders in our industry.
Instead I felt like a lost child and it was very disheartening and disappointing, from the flight debacles to the run down hotels, it was terrible.
I feel like I wasted five days of my life. As an organisation, I would recommend to the Amaas that if they don’t have their act together, they should not invite us. They need to clean up their house. As a filmmaker, I don’t think I will ever attend another Amaas.
Emily Wanja – producer Burnt Forest and Give me back my Home
My immediate observation is that Nigeria’s show business is much more vibrant than what we have in Kenya. Stars are celebrated and this is evident everywhere you turn.
However Amaas itself turned out to be well-disorganised. It didn’t live up to the hype. Amaas is a noble idea, but the organisers need to own up to the logistical difficulties that highly characterised the whole affair and step up to make the event something that filmmakers in Africa are proud to submit their films to and experience.
To other filmmakers? I’d say submit your film but don’t attend. Better yet make sure your film is a Nigeria co-production. Enough said.
I would recommend that in future Amaas recognise the diversity that Africa as a continent has in storytelling.
The same way they have a category for best Nigerian movie they should have i.e. best African co-production and other categories that make every corner of Africa feel that indeed they have fairly participated and that Amaas is not just a Nigeria event.
Jackie Lebo – producer Gun to Tape
They were not prepared for our arrival, which was strange considering we had confirmed our attendance several weeks ago. Thus we never knew where we would sleep or when our next meal was coming, which meant we had a terrible experience.
My advice to Amaas is that they should start planning early and organise better. They raised 800 million Naira for the event, so obviously there is no shortage of cash or human resources.
For other filmmakers looking to the awards, I would recommend they submit their films but attend the event at their own peril – meaning go prepared for the most surreal and nerve-wracking experience of their lives.
One of the Amaas partners Raymond Anyiam Osigwe and brother to the founder of the awards addressed the Kenyan and Cameroonian delegation before they flew out of Lagos on Monday afternoon.
In his statement he said:
“When the Kenyan team and the other delegates were having some issues, I said I would meet them and I am someone that likes to say what I mean and mean what I say.
Amaas is done in a partnership basis and of course the public sector works differently from the private sector and there are some real challenges that we face.
But I think as Africans we should rise from our challenges mindful that we need to build the infrastructure. So I simply want to apologise for the challenges you felt going through in terms of getting to the destination, but its not just peculiar to yourselves…
“The challenges in Bayelsa is not primarily the responsibility of Amaas. But like they say even if you do delegate authority, you still take responsibility. The challenge you have when you work with government, government is government.
“Bayelsa has serious infrastructure issues especially in terms of hotels. It is a reality even in other parts of Africa. What you experienced is that challenge. I simply want you to take your trip here as an experience. In life you sell the positive side. I said to the team that came, that we live in hope and I think we need to talk a bit more as to where we want Africa to be.”
Ogova Ondego, Eastern Africa Director, Amaas when questioned about the ill treatment the Kenyan delegation experienced, he said:
“To the best of my knowledge and belief, the organisers of the Africa Movie Academy Awards did not deliberately set out to mistreat any guest, let alone Eastern Africans in general or Kenyans in particular.
The hospitality of Amaas has never been in question. It isn’t easy inviting guests from the width and breadth of Africa and the Diaspora, paying return tickets, hotel transfers, accommodation and all logistical issues. It calls for great planning and dedication. Whatever happened was unfortunate; it shouldn’t have happened.” Another media release from the Amaas head office in Lagos was expected last evening.