Awards are more for business than for entertainment, at least when they are properly done. The power in a statuette is measured by how much value the awarding party and other stakeholders have built around it.
The Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), now in its seventh edition, has been branded as one of the most prestigious entertainment awards in Africa but is it? Does the AMVCA count in overall industry growth and audience building?
Globally, awards in film and general entertainment are a big deal. Statistically, in Hollywood, an academy award has the potential to increase a film’s revenue by at least 25 million dollars among other gains, including prestige and more projects.
This is why lots of money is spent campaigning for the nominations to win. More importantly, awards open up never-had conversations about the films and the people involved in them. These conversations leave the strongest after effects for everyone – audience and all.
The AMVCA is branded a viewers’ choice award but has failed in drawing and building a film community that is allowed to make a choice. On February 6, the nomination list was announced for the 2020 edition. Out of the 28 categories, only seven are open to public voting.
The remaining 21 are to be judged by a panel led by Femi Odugbemi. Speaking on his role as head judge, Odugbemi said, “I am hopeful that we can continue the tradition of high integrity of these awards towards honouring achievement and best practices.”
His competence as a judge is not in question as he has overtime, proven himself as a fair juror and most recently, he became a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
Apart from him, the other members of the panel are unknown. This would not be a problem if they were to judge seven and leave the viewers to vote for 21 categories. The biggest viewer choice award – People’s choice awards has over 95 percent public voting categories all with clear guidelines. If a model is going to be copied, it should be done well.
Realistically speaking, awards do not matter until they are made to matter. They are ego boosting events created to sell fashion and maybe, social consciousness. But at the base of all these, they were created for conversation and audience priming. Neither of which Nollywood or African awards are doing.
The most important category for Nollywood is the Best Movie (West Africa) and for 2020, the nominees are ‘God Calling’, ‘Seven’, ‘Elevator Baby’, ‘Living In Bondage’ and ‘Ratnik’. 2018 fan-favourite ‘King of Boys’ was left out of the category, giving ‘Living in Bondage’ a clear advantage.
It is not only the most commercially successful out of the lot but it has generated some of the most conversations. However, it is clear that this award will do little or no good to the team behind this film.
The reason is the simple, sad fact that the audience will not be able to select or vote for their favourite ‘Best film’. The same thing goes for the Best Soundtrack category for which both ‘King of Boys’ and ‘Living in Bondage’ (LIB), which had the best original songs in the review period, were nominated.
All that work to produce great original music for a film and no way to create mainstream conversation about it with the ‘biggest’ viewers’ choice award in Africa. For a company that does a great job in shaping and presenting the most talked-about celebrities in Africa through its Big Brother show, it is interesting how it is finding it hard to do a decent thing for film.
Clearly, the audience is only deemed fit enough to talk about and vote for randy behaviour for housemates in an enclosed house. This explains why the only voting category open are best actors and actresses. It is assuming that they lack the intelligence to pick the movies and elements they like.
So, they are left with voting according to the sways of the social media popularity of actors and nothing else of substance. They are not trusted by the AMVCA to vote Best Television Series, Best Writer (which basically celebrates plot development) or Best Indigenous Film.
In a funny twist, they are also not trusted enough to vote for Best Makeup or Best Costume which they can clearly judge from seeing the movie. Look at the numbers Big Brother Naija pulled and the people who made sure to watch and vote because they knew it counted.
If such huge campaigns can be done for a profanity circus, imagine the weight award campaigns will pull when done right, if the audience realised that all they needed to do was to go and see the movie. Nollywood must employ every weapon in its arsenal.
To reiterate its role in growing the film industry, The Channel Director, Africa Magic, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, said that the AMVCAs has continued to inspire and celebrate contributions of African filmmakers, actors and industry specialists as they promote the growth of the continent’s film and television industry.
On the night of the nomination announcements, the official hashtag on twitter had a little over 10,000 engagements. Films have done better than this on their own. The truth is, without the addition of Viewers’ Choice as a differentiator, the awards would be a light source without direction.
Nonetheless, the biggest wins from the nominations were the underdogs recognised across board. LIB’s star, Jide-Kene Achufusi aka Swanky JKA, Toni Tones and Reminisce in ‘King of Boys’; and Timini Egbuson in ‘Elevator Baby’.
Also, the recognition of Uzor Arukwe and Zainab Balogun, both with double nominations is noteworthy. The best and toughest voting category is Best Actor in a Drama, with its catalogue of fresh faces, who made their mark in the review period, with only Ramsey Noah being the known face.
As the industry awaits the award day, a lot of the anxiety is geared toward the pomp and pageantry of the red carpet. Fashion analysis will be terribly skewed away from the real reason why the talents are in the spotlights in the first place.
Somehow, in the haze of activity, the industry might miss the opportunity to have the right conversations and engage the audience. While it is hoped that this does not happen, it will, anyway.