The prestigious awards, regarded as Africa’s Oscars, held a superlative gala night in Malawi with the country’s President Joyce Banda was chief host, literarily bringing the country to a standstill. The icing on the cake for Malawi, little known for film, is that Flora Suya got nominated for the AMAA 2013 Prize for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in Last Fishing Boat, which walked away with four other nominations including the prize for Best Film.
It was a big celebration for the country and it continued with a concert by music sensation PSquare the next day at the Golf Club in Lilongwe with many attesting to the show pulling one of the most unprecedented crowds for such gatherings in the country.
The April 20 date for the awards looked like a long way ahead when announced at the gala but it is finally here heralded by a book and craft fair beginning today in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital. Already, Nigerian literary icons have gathered in Yenagoa for the international book and craft fair that is part of the activities for the 2013 AMAA to be hosted by actress Dakore Egbuson, comedian Ayo Makun and British/Ghanaian television presenter and actress, Ama K. Abebrese.
The fair, which will have many readings and technical sessions according to Fair Director, Mr. Onyeka Nwelue, will have in attendance, accomplished playwright, Professor Femi Osofisan; NLNG Prize for Literature winner, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo and former Minister of Federal Capital, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, who will read from his latest book, The Accidental Public Servant. Holding till April 19, it will also have popular Indian writer and supermodel, Shobhaa De and Portuguese actor, Jose Fildago attending.
When the award night takes place on Saturday, the category everyone will watch keenly will be the one for Best Film, which has two Nigerian films in contention, Last Flight To Abuja and Confusion Na Wa. The former is based on a near miss in which a pilot steers a smoke-filled plane to safety, while the latter is a social comedy drama that traces the lives of a disparate group of individuals as their paths cross over the course of one day.
For being thrilling and adding up to the two nominations in this coveted category alone, a Nigerian film may well be sure of a win. But as those who know about such things would indicate, they do not necessarily go that way all the time. But there is no doubt that any one of the two films stands a chance. That is not to indicate that the remaining five are pushovers. The South African film Elelwani tells the captivating love story of Elelwani and her boyfriend who plan to spend the rest of their lives together until forces beyond their control step in. In the last couple of years, South Africa has been Nigeria’s biggest rival at the AMAA; it is looking to go that way this year as well particularly when one considers that Elelwani also shows up in the Best Director as well as Best Actress in a Leading Role categories, among others.
There are countries such as Kenya, Cameroon, Malawi and Mozambique all relatively new to the AMAA but packing a punch with Nairobi Half Life, Ninah’s Dowry, Last Fishing Boat and Virgin Margarida, respectively, all of them films that cannot be ignored, not only for quality of production, but also depth of the story.
Then there is Ghana’s Yvonne Okoro (The Contract) and Nigeria’s Rita Dominic (The Meeting) nominated in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category for films pundits have continued to speak about since the nominations were announced. The other contenders in this category include: Florence Masebe (Elelwani); Mariam Ouedraogo (Moi Zaphira); Mbutung Seikeh (Ninah’s Diary) and Flora Suya (Last Fishing Boat). It is unlikely that any one of the two Nigerians actresses may not clinch the prize, but if that were to happen, it is a prize for any one of the other actresses.
However, one prize many a Nigerian film enthusiast would like to see stay in the country is for Justus Esiri’s nomination in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category for his performance in Assasins’ Practice. And this is not just that it will be awarded posthumously, it is also because the late veteran actor, only buried last Friday, was one of the best Nigeria ever produced. The other contenders in this category are: OC Ukeje (Alan Poza); Bimbo Manuel (Hereos and Zereos); Lindani Nkosi (Zama Zama); Hlomla Dandala (The Contract); Femi Jacobs (The Meeting) and Amurin Wumnembom (Ninah’s Dowry). Should either Esiri, Manuel, Jacobs or Ukeje (who has worked hard since coming onto the Nigerian movie scene by winning the now rested Amstel Malta Box Office, AMBO, reality show contest), win, it will be a big one for Nigeria.
From the look of things, it will be a very interesting awards night come Saturday as film people in Africa and beyond stand up to be counted. In all, Elelwani got 11 nominations making it the film to beat followed by Nairobi Half Life with nine. The Twin Sword, Virgin Magarida, Blood and Henna, Ninah’s Dowry, The Contract and The Meeting got six nominations each. Last Fishing Boat, Last Flight To Abuja and Okoro The Prince each got five nominations.