by Wilfred Okiche
Genevieve Nnaji was there, showing some bosom, Olu Jacobs was present, reliably eloquent while accepting his lifetime achievement award. Tunde Kelani stood defiant, daring anyone to refer to the indigenous languages as local and Sara Blecher was a proud mother, taking home the night’s biggest award for ‘Otelo burning’. Yesterday’s men Zach Orji and Saint Obi mingled freely with up and comers O.C Ukeje and Damilola Adegbite and the Yoruba actors stood side by side with their English and Hausa colleagues.
Call it a reunion of sorts, call it a party. Organisers call it the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards.
The inaugural AMVCAs brought the whole of Africa to the Lagos and what a party it was. The Eko hotel and suites, Victoria Island for two days, was turned into a hub of activity, a carnival of sorts where African entertainment’s brightest and best came to party.
Before we continue, lets be clear on this; regardless of what you may have heard from some over-enthusiastic gushers, the AMVCA is not Africa’s answer to the Oscars (the longer-running and more prestigious AMAAs currently boasts a more legitimate claim to that honour) but it is a veritable platform none the less and organizers can only build on what could be termed a successful first outing.
Broadcast to the whole world on all 8 Africa Magic channels, the red carpet took off with the stars doing their best to outshine the other. African designers were vividly on display with most A-list stars choosing to patronize the local talent. Whether it was Genevieve in April by Kunbi or Toke Makinwa in Shakara couture, there was no shortage of red carpet fabulousity. In the battle for the best red carpet host, Channel O veejay, Denrele Edun’s over the top wild child act trumped the others hands down.
Femi Kuti opened the show with a stellar performance from his band (he also closed) and Akin Omotosho’s gangster drama ‘Man on ground’ carted away the early batch of awards. Mr Omotosho would later win for best director and his leading man Fabian Adeoye Lojede although not a winner in any acting category felt like a recurring decimal with the way he kept popping up either to accept on someone’s behalf or to present. Other deserving winners like Hafiz Ayetoro, Tunde Kelani and Sara Blecher were awarded warm receptions from the audience.
It is hard to fault any viewer’s choice awards as the results are a reflection of the voting process but it was quite surprising to see Jackie Appiah (Perfect picture) trump both Genevieve Nnaji (Mirror Boy) and Funke Akindele (The Return of Jenifa) for lead actress in a drama. Mercy Johnson was also a surprise winner (over Funke Akindele again) for her turn in ‘Dumebi the dirty girl’ and her trophy was accepted on her behalf by Patience Ozokwor. On second thought, these wins are not so surprising as these actors are in movies that play on the daily on Africa Magic and their faces and names are accessible to the voting audience.
Hosts Ik Osakioduwa and former BBA housemate Vimbai Mutinhiri made a delightful combination. While IK has grown and matured in front of the camera and can host these things in his sleep, Vimbai had to work extra hard to gain the audience’s approval. Shorn by her stylists who seemed to pick out the wrong set of costumes, the scripted presentations and timely cue cards compensated and her perkiness appeared wholesome.
Musical presentations ranged from passable (Tiwa Savage), good (Banky W), excellent (Efya) to just plain lazy (Iyanya who couldn’t be bothered at all). There were too many breaks in between and the ushering of the musical numbers was not seamless at all. This made for some awkward moments for those in the hall and would have been worse for viewers at home. Also organizers made a habit of announcing winners while leaving out the films they were being rewarded for. Not cool. Much has been said about lumping film and television categories together so we’ll say no more.
The presenters were engaging and seemed to have spent some time at rehearsals although Denrele and Funlola Aofiyebi- Raimi were particularly spectacular and Congolese comedian Eddie Kali was a hit with the audience.
Veteran of stage and screen, Olu Jacobs was honored with a lifetime achievement award and while it was great to see he and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett on the same stage, an In-memoriam section honoring fallen heroes like Justus Esiri, Pete Eneh and Sam Loco-Efe would have been timely.
Sponsors Amstel Malta could not quite resist putting in a huge plug by awarding Ivie Okujaye, latest winner of their reality tv show AMBO an improbable award, ‘Trailblazer of the year’ (she had no competition). While the award itself may be in question , it is hard to hold a grudge as her acceptance speech was so quirky and self-effacing.
It was a good party. For African cinema and for the stars who came out in full force, perhaps sending out a ringing endorsement of Africa Magic to be heard the world over. Africa Magic is here to stay. And with a lot of re-jigging and rethinking, the AMVCA may just be in for the long haul too.
Wilfred Okiche tweets from @drwill20