By Benjamin NJOKU
The stage is set for the crowning of the next African best actor and actress of the year as the brightest and best in movies across the continent gather in the capital city of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State for this yearâ€™s edition of the African Movie Academy Awards(AMAA).
Last year,Â Nigeriaâ€™s Funke Akindele emerged from the rear to cliche the coveted actress of the year crown. This year, with four actresses racing for the crown, it becomes a difficult taskÂ for anyone to want to predict who emerges the winner.
Already, the atmosphere is charged as organisers of the continental awards are making frantic efforts to record a hitch-free event. Movie makers from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Algeria and other countries are expected at this annual celebration which has become the most prestigious and glamorous entertainment industry event.
AMAA, which is also dubbed the African Oscars, is coming barely one month after the Academy Awards (Oscars) in U.S.
From all indications, many believed that the recent nomination party for this yearâ€™s award held in Accra, Ghana, has set a big battle between Nigeriaâ€™s Nollywood and Ghana film makers. With Ghana becoming an emerging force in Africa, entertainment freaks have predicted that the game will no longer be as usual for Nollywood, which started it all.
Renowned Ghanaian actress, Akofo Asiedu Ejeani stole the show at this yearâ€™s nomineesâ€™ party as the movie she produced, I sing of A Well topped the nominationâ€™s list with 11 nods. Nigeriaâ€™s classic movie The Figurine by Kunle Afolayan came second with 10 nods.
Another Ghanaian producer, Shirley Frimpong Manso also had 11 nods in two of her movies; eight for Perfect Picture and three for A Sting In A Tale.
Other Ghanaian movies nominated are The Heart of Men which received five nominations, Sin of the Soul with two nominations, while The King Is Mine, and Princeâ€™s Bride, had one nomination each.
Actor Ramsey Noah who was one of the casts on The Figurine will be slugging it out with Lucky Ejim, Odera Ozoka, John Osei Tutu and Majid Michael for their roles in Soul Diaspora, I sing of a well, The Tenant and Sin of a Soul, for the best actor category.
Also, actress Stephanie Okereke and Bimbo Akintola, who are nominated for Best Actress in leading roles in Nnenda andÂ Freedom in Chains, will slog it out with Flora Suya, Akofa Asiedu, Jackie Apia, Lydia Farson â€“ the counterparts from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi andÂ other countries.
Excitedly, the stage is set with about 2000 foreign guests from within and outside Africa expected in Bayelsa today. GovernorÂ Timipre Sylva, Minister for Trade and Industry, Hannah Tetteh, and the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Misiliu Obanikoro will be among the dignitaries expected at this eveningâ€™s event, which will witness some cultural performances and fashion show.
It would be recalled that a total of 31 nominations were garnered by Ghana with 14 of her movie personalities nominated in various categories, thereby closing gap with Nigeria which has a total of 41 nominations.
AMAAâ€™s College of Screeners chairman,Â Mr. Shuaibu Hussein, who gave an account of how 30 films were short-listed from the 500 entries it received, believed however that there has been a kind of improvement regarding the quality of films produced on the continent.
Meanwhile, in what looks to be a keen contest this year, Malawiâ€™s single movie, Season of A Life received eight nods, ahead of Kenya which received five nominations with two movies, Togetherness Supreme and Peace wanted Alive.
Uganda and South Africa with four nominations each, and Algeria, Bukina Faso which have two nominations each, are not left out in this fierce battle to be counted.
Though AMAA traces its root to Nollywood, the fact that Kenya won the biggest award in last yearâ€™s edition, was a wake-up call to Nigeria, a country that was rated as the second largest producers of movies. Kenyaâ€™s movie, From a Whisper which also had the highest number of nominations, was adjudged the overall winner as the film won prizes for Best Picture, Best Original Soundtrack, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Edited movie.
Incidentally, Kenyan film Coming of Age also won the Best Documentary (Short Subject), with the country carting away six awards at the 2009 edition, whereas Nigeria won seven awards, in less fancied categories.
During this yearâ€™s nomination party, Chief Executive of AMAA, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, hadÂ stated that the award is Pan-African in scope and philosophy. She explained, â€œIn our conception, we have moved beyond questions of one film coming from Ghana or Nigeria or Kenya. We now talk of African films. We know it is important to tell the story of Africa by ourselves. AMAA belongs to all African film makers. It may have been founded by Peace but it belongs to all of us.â€