African Voice



by Ekine Stronghold
How do you think AMAA has benefited Africa?
I am not the spokesman of AMAA. My comments are made on the basis of my
being a player in the audiovisual media sector of Africa as a creative and
cultural entrepreneur working variously as a journalist, critic, producer,
distributor, mentor and event organizer and presenter.
All right. Here we go:
I think AMAA is helping create interest in African cinema; many countries
are competing to host its nomination events: South Africa, Burkina Faso,Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have already hosted it. I don’t think they would be competing to host an event that has little dividends for them.AMAA has raised the profile of African cinema; AMAA is used as a yardstick on what is a good African film. AMAA nominees and winners are readily accepted on the international film festival circuit without much scrutiny; many international filmmakers want to associate with AMAA. They are turning to AMAA for—what’s the right word?—approval, certification, validation. Just ask the AMAA film gatekeepers!
Ever heard of Africa Film Academy’s Film-in-a-Box project? It is a skill-development initiative for youngsters across Africa that has already taken place in Johannesburg (South Africa), Lagos (Nigeria), Banjul (The Gambia), Lilongwe (Malawi) and is returning to Nigeria (Yenagoa, Bayelsa)in April 2013. This is a Siamese twin of AMAA, a sister but complementary project,if you like.On March 15, 2013, during the 9th AMAA Nomination Gala in Lilongwe,Malawian President Joyce Banda, said, “…the Film-In- a – Box Training Programme that the Africa Film Academy, in partnership with my government is conducting,mark a major milestone in the development of Malawi’s creative art industry.” She further said, “The film-in- a- Box training is an urgent intervention needed to help found and develop an enabling infrastructure that provides Malawian film practitioners with the
necessary impetus to mobilize and evolve the sector to a point where it generates a viable cultural economy in the same way other countries outside Malawi have done and are doing. “
Rachael Mazombe Zulu, the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Malawi noted: “Our artistes are undergoing training in different areas of movie making.This demonstrates that you would like Africa and the world at large to know that Malawian culture through films that will be produced once these artistes are equipped with necessary skills of filmmaking. We hope …that
one day many people in the world should know about Malawian culture through Malawian movies. This award ceremony, and the training which were conducted prior to this event, have a great bearing on the development of film industry in the country.”
Well, that’s from the horse’s own mouth for you on what AMAA is doing for Africa.

What are the major challenges facing AMAA?
I think the major challenge could be lack of adequate financial resources. Running an initiative such as AMAA throughout the year is no mean task. Flying in people from across Africa and the Diaspora, accommodating them,feeding them and providing them with the necessary hospitality isn’t cheap.Getting staff with the right skills to manage AMAA, I guess, must be costing a lot of money. Building an international brand no doubt requires a lot of resources. And AMAA, as I know it, isn’t a money-making venture. It therefore goes without saying that if AMAA is short of resources; it cannot be as vibrant as we would expect it to be.

Do you think AMAA sold out in trying to accommodate other African countries?
No,it didn’t;in fact, AMAA is simply living up to its name. It is an all Africa initiative: Africa Movie Academy Awards. AMAA, as conceived,was meant to serve the whole continent. Otherwise it would have been named Nollywood Movie Academy Awards (NMAA). However, I think it is a highly ambitious project as it also serves the Diaspora besides the vast African continent.In light of diminishing resources but expanding needs, perhaps AMAA should have concentrated on Africa.But it is only the founders who know why AMAA has to address the needs of the mother continent and the
Diaspora.So I can’t fault them. But I remember a similar issue came up during a continental film summit in South Africa.My argument was—still is—that African initiatives would do better if they addressed African needs first before seeking to accommodate the Diaspora. This was in connection with a film fund that the Federation of African Filmmakers (FEPACI) sought to establish and from which filmmakers in the Diaspora were eligible to access.

Do you see the AMVCA as a threat to AMAA?
I don’t see the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards rivaling AMAA in any way; they are two different but complementary schemes with different objectives from their names and the way they are structured. AMAA,I guess, is so far a much superior brand that focuses on the holistic development of cinema in Africa and the Diaspora. AMAA recognizes and rewards film practitioners from scripting to storytelling and from sound design to cinematography and art design. In a word, it is a well thought out brand that understands what it wants and goes out to get it. AMAA has
offices and representatives across Africa: North Africa, West Africa,South Africa, eastern Africa.I help manage the Eastern Africa office—in charge of Kenya,Uganda,Tanzania,Rwanda,Burundi, eastern Congo-Kinshasa,South Sudan,Ethiopia,Eritrea,Djibouti, Somalia—from Nairobi.Though based in Nigeria, AMAA is an Africa-wide brand and conducts its business across the continent and the Diaspora. It is currently conducting film training across Africa, something AMVCA doesn’t do. Both initiatives can co-exist.There is enough room for both. And even many more players.However how each defines its mandate, delivers service and remains relevant is what will determine its future.By the way,I think instead of duplicating roles, AMVCA founders would
have done better if they had teamed up with AMAA and similar initiatives in order to share the burden of developing Africa. I think there is still room for that. I guess Peace Anyiam-Osigwe—the founder and Chief Executive Officer of AMAA—would consider some collaboration for she is a strong believer in pan Africanism. Whenever I have heard her speak, she is always
critical of the artificial borders imposed on Africans by the former colonial powers.I would like to see AMVCA,AMAA,FEPACI and many other organizations specializing in the development of the audiovisual media sector of Africa working as team pulling in the same direction.

Is it true that the coming of the AMVCA is due to the loop holes AMAA has been unable to mend over the years?
I do not think so. And if it were so, then I would have hoped that the initiators of AMVCA would have done better had they discussed those ‘shortcomings’ with AMAA and sought ways of eliminating them; together.For the good of Africa.I don’t think we can develop Africa by competing with each other to see who is better at doing what. We in the creative and cultural sector ought to uphold our fraternity and not behave like politicians seeking to take advantage of the weaknesses of our opponents
to amass power.I have seen apparently ‘great’ initiatives come and go.Do you recall the Kora Music Awards? Do you recall the Southern Africa Film & Television Market (Sithengi) and the Cape Town World Cinema Festival? Do you recall M-Net Face of Africa? Do you recall URTNA Programme Exchange? I don’t think we solve much by duplicating efforts. Team work can go a long way and achieve a lot more than adopting the ‘Lone Ranger’ approach.We must share the burden instead of trying to bear it all alone; many hands make light work.

What direct result can your country say it has achieved because of AMAA?
Some 400 delegates congregated in Nairobi for the 7th AMAA Nomination Party in 2011. They got to know about Kenya’s travel, tourism and hospitality facilities. And they paid for the service thus helping putting money in our exchequer. P-Square performed to music lovers in Nairobi, courtesy of AMAA. The 11-country Eastern Africa office for AMAA is based in Nairobi. AMAA has in the past participated in the Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skill-development programme and marketing platform for
children and youth in eastern Africa.

If there is anything you can change or unmake about AMAA what would that be?
I think that one thing is the challenge of resources to run AMAA. AMAA needs a sure and steady source of funding to be effective.I wish African governments through the African Union would contribute to AMAA, a pan African initiative that is struggling to live up to expectation.Once there is sure funding, everything else would fall in place: getting proper infrastructure, staff, programmes, branding, service delivery, etc.

What do you think are the major problems of the African film industry?
Financial problems; inadequate training facilities; distribution network problems; aping of Hollywood without the requisite technical and financial muscles; lack of policies and support from the various governments, etc.

If AMAA could be said to have failed, what would be those areas and whom do you think should be held responsible?
AMAA is a pan African initiative that should have directors to run its various programmes, projects, initiatives. But can it adequately compensate such people for their work? I am not sure AMAA has a Director of Resource Mobilization, a Director of
Marketing and Public Relations, etc, etc. Such people don’t exist. AMAA needs specialized staff, get AMAA the necessary resources—human and capital—and all the jig-saw puzzles will fall in place. That’s my conviction.

Do you think there are indications that AMAA is a one man show?
I am not sure about what response to give. AMAA was founded by Peace Anyiam-Osigwe,the current Chief Executive Officer of the initiative. Tony Anih is the Administrative Director and Sonny McDon the Programmes’Director. Then, as far as I know—or believe—AMAA has secretarial staff. AMAA has an international jury that has been in place for all the time I have known about the initiative. AMAA has a College of Screeners of members drawn from across Africa. AMAA has six levels of panels that look at the films submitted to the Academy for possible nomination and awards. That is how much I know about AMAA. Or could I be wrong?

Ogova Ondego
Director, ComMattersKenya
Publisher, ArtMatters.Info
Managing Trustee, Lola Kenya Screen
Convener, IPO Eastern Africa
Director, Kids For Kids Festival-Africa
Eastern Africa Regional Director, Africa Movie Academy Awards

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