By BENJAMIN NJOKU
Although the award ceremony sprang up surprises among the audience, the ninth edition of the annual African Movie Academy Award, AMAA, which held last Saturday night, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State lived up to its billing.
The star-studded event however brought Bayelsa to limelight again after the state tactically missed to host the event the previous year. But unlike what AMAA is known for, the event was partially hijacked .
Held at the Gloryland Cultural Centre in Yenagoa, this year’s awards night was rather exceptional, not because of Bayelsa State cultural troupe annoyingly dominating the stage, but because there were relatively few fashion missteps on the red carpet. Also, this was the first time in nine years that the award ceremony dragged into the early hours of Sunday to the surprise of the attendees.
However, the highpoint of this year’s AMAA was the televising of the event to over 50 million viewers across the continent and beyond. At least, stars and producers from twelve African countries, including Nollywood practitioners such as Victor Osuagwu, Aki and Pawpaw, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Yvonne Okoro, Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, Uti Nwachukwu, Alex Ekubo, Rita Dominic, Chioma Chukwuka, and other numerous guests who graced the glamorous event which was tagged ‘Africa One’. Night-crawlers from Bayelsa and neighboring states also besieged the venue to experience and witness the occasion.
Stand-up comedian, AY Makun, who almost turned the event to AY show as he held the audience spellbound with his rib-cracking jokes co-hosted the award night alongside British-Ghanaian Actress and TV presenter, Ama K. Abebrese and uber-classy Dakore Egbuson-Akande who also caused a stir as she was gracefully carried onto the well lit stage with four guards like a queen mother. As a daughter of the soil, Dakore was accompanied to the event by her hubby, Olumide and she gave a good account of herself, while communicating in the typical Bayelsan language.
Commendable this year, was the organisers’ effort to incorporate the actors from the Yoruba film sector into the award ceremony. A handful of Yoruba actors who featured prominently in this year’s AMAA include Faithia Balogun, Doris Simon,Funke Daramola, Mercy Aigbe, Sahid Balogun and many others. It was the first time, they were featuring prominently in the annual event.
Meanwhile, Nollywood veterans, Chief Eddie Ugbomah, Pete Edochie and ace film director, Tunde Kelani were among recipients of AMAA Lifetime Achievement Awards. The award body also gave Special Recognition to ace producer, Emem Isong, veteran actors, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Kenneth Okonkwo, and the Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN), describing them as pillars of Nollywood.
However, the big winners of the night were late Nollywood actor, Justus Esiri who emerged the Best Actor in a Leading Role. Esiri, 71, who died on February 20 and was buried on April 12 in his home town in Abraka, Delta State, won the award for his role in the film titled “Assassins’ Practice”, Belinda Effah, Best Promising Actor for the film “Kokoma”, while Best Director prize went to Niyi Akanni, for his outstanding work in the film, “Heroes and Zeros”. Nigerian documentary “Fuelling Poverty” clinched the Best Documentary category.
South Africa followed Nigeria with four awards, this year’s award for Best Actress in a Leading Role went to South Africa’s Florence Maseba, for the film “Elelwani”
The award night witnessed performances by several artistes including P-Square, Waje, Flavour, Timi Dakolo who got a standing ovation and Magic Band from Malawi got the audience rocking at several points of the show. Also worthy of note is the rousing applause Nollywood veteran, Kenneth Okonkwo was given on his appearance on stage to receive his Pillars of Nollywood award. Okonkwo, who is rarely seen in public gave a heartfelt acceptance speech as he thanked his wife and fans for their love and support.
However, despite the technical and logistic problems that almost marred the award ceremony, it recorded a huge success in terms of attendance and production. Condemnable was the activities of the local organisers(Bayelsians) who practically hijacked the award night and turned it into a cultural extravaganza which was not supposed to be so.