The Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) 2017 has come and gone but the outcome of the night is written in history. This year’s award saw twenty-seven awards up for grabs, of which Senegal’s film Félicité was a winner in six categories. Félicité follows the story of a singer who sings in a bar in Kinshasa. When her 14-year-old son has a motorcycle accident, she goes on a frantic search through the streets of Kinshasa, a world of music and dreams. And her path crosses that of Tabu.
Nollywood emerged winners in five categories, four, if you take into account that one of the categories, Best Nigerian Film, was limited to only Nollywood films: Achievement in Makeup (Oloibiri), Achievement in visual effects (’96), Best Animation (Got Flowers), Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Angelique Kidjo – (CEO) and Best Nigeria Film (’96). Some people might think ‘not that bad’ but when one considers that Nollywood is the second largest film producing country in the world, this year’s showing at AMAA becomes almost insignificant. This is noted without taking away the credits due to the production teams of Oloibiri, Got Flower and ’96 – they did well!
At the nominations stage, Nollywood has at least one representative in all categories for which it is qualified to participate but two – Best Young / Promising Actor and Achievement in Cinematography – for which it had no nominations, in total forty-three nominations. Some categories (four of them) however, were limited to films produced in the diaspora, for which Nollywood does not qualify to compete. Nonetheless, expectations were high. A complete list of nomination categories and winners can be found here.
Let’s see some statistics.
The first three editions of the AMAA (2006 -2008) saw Nollywood winning over 50% of the awards, but these numbers decreased over the years, and between 2009 and 2015, the average percentage wins by Nollywood films at AMAA was 25%, yet it was during this period that Nollywood emerged as the second-largest film producing country in the world. This, naturally, calls to question the quality of the film churned out by the industry. The trend seems to suggest that quality was being traded for numbers, and as one industry observer noted “It was like ‘pure water’ business, people think that filmmaking is a profitable venture so they jump into it without understanding the complexity involved in producing a quality film. So, we saw ‘CD marketers’ donning on the title of ‘film producers’ without any training or thought given to the process of making a decent film”
Recently, however, we saw a resurgence in the quality of films produced in Nollywood, thanks in part to what some observers noted was due to a drastic reduction in DVD demands, the re-emergence of the cinema culture in the country and the associated stringent in quality demanded by cinema houses. These factors (amongst others) act together to force film producers to rethink their approach and redirect their effort to better content creation, sound and picture quality. And it seemed to have been working. Last year, Nollywood won ten of the twenty-six awards up for grabs, that amounted to 38%, which was quite an improvement. So anyone can imagine the disappointments of this year’s showing, which was barely 19% win.
What possibly could be attributed to being the cause? In this writer’s opinion, either Nollywood is deluded on the quality of its film production or filmmakers in Africa are upping their games.
The former is a work in progress and Nollywood is perceptible conscious of quality demands by industry watchers and film consumers as well. More so as the myriad sources and ease of obtaining entertainment elsewhere nowadays mandates that producers pay attention to meeting quality demands.
The latter is inevitable, what is true in terms of meeting quality demand for Nollywood is equally true elsewhere. Serious filmmakers all over the world know how competitive the industry is and how easy it is to be left behind, so they are constantly on the lookout for new avenues to improve their work and stand out among the competition. African filmmakers are not immune to these forces, in fact, they are even more vulnerable since overall, the challenges are even more pronounced – limited access to finance, limited audience reach, a more or less nascent industry compared with elsewhere, training needs, limited access to technology, lack of government support, enabling legislation, amongst other challenges.
Yet, Africa filmmakers must find a way to navigate through these challenges to be globally relevant. Ways they might be able to achieve this is beyond the scope of this treatise, though we’ll be looking at how in another article. Meanwhile, Nollywood by the notion of its large presence, cannot afford to lag behind. Whether one likes it or not, the performance at AMAA is a benchmark that most will use to judge the readiness of Nollywood to lead the filmmaking industry in Africa. It must rise to the challenge. Time for excuses is long past.