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Oris Aigbokhaevbolo: There’s Something About These AMVCA Nominations

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Over the years the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) has shown it is not interested in assessing elements of quality filmmaking. Instead what it seeks to do is stamp celebrities with the title “award-winning”. The better if those celebrities feature frequently on the Africa Magic channels.

Still the nominations for this year have to be the worst since the award scheme showed up in 2013. If it was a bad year for Nollywood in 2017, the AMVCA organisers have managed to be worse. An incredibly low bar has been breached.

It seems about right to say that the organisers of the AMVCA do not understand that major awards for the creative industry are extensions of the critical system. A film that receives negative reviews across board upon release has no business featuring prominently at an award ceremony. And it is here that the relative absence of decent criticism in Nollywood and other Nigerian creative spaces is undermining our country’s push for excellence. To take the basic of requirements, if much of what passes for criticism is in badly written sentences, how can anyone take it seriously?

And yet, the AMVCA must bear the brunt of its own deplorable choices—it, after all, has a jury that is supposedly aware of what should pass for award-deserving filmmaking. But, of course, nobody should believe that members of that jury have a discerning sensibility if a film as bad as Alter Ego has received a whopping 10 nominations, and one as good as Ojukokoro has received two nominations in sound editing and make-up.

Alter Ego was supposed to mark a return to acting for Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, but after scene upon scene where neither director Moses Inwang nor star actress seemed aware of their story’s purpose, I began to think Nollywood was better off without one of its marquee performers. The much publicised sex scenes seemed to have been put together by a group of people who have never actually had sex. The one constant onscreen presence in all of these scenes is Jalade-Ekeinde, who seems to believe that playing a nympho means producing a series of risible grimaces while fucking. At no point obviously did Inwang think that it might be possible to actually get some actual acting from his star actress.

But the AMVCA has rewarded Inwang and Jalade-Ekeinde with nominations. Makes you wonder: At a time a prominent Nigerian producer could ask President Emmanuel Macron of France about how Nollywood might win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, is Alter Ego the type of film we want to present to the world as multi-nominated—or, God save us, award-winning? I don’t think so.

As though the AMVCA intends to outdo its own silliness, it has handed 11 nominations, including two best supporting actress nods, to Tatu, a much more ridiculous film than Alter Ego. Maybe the C in AMVCA should stand for Crap.

On the other hand, the remarkable Ojukokoro, one of a handful of well-written films to have come from new Nollywood, has been snubbed in the acting, directing, and writing categories. This is just as troubling for the industry and maybe even the country because it means that excellence would go unrewarded.

Dare Olaitan’s film elevated the Nigerian vernacular into art; its actors, especially Seun Ajayi, produced their best performances in years; its script took an innovative approach to character perspectives—and for all of these it gets no nomination in any of the major categories. In what can only be viewed as a travesty, Shawn Faqua’s impressive interpretation of a lowlife criminal in Ojukokoro goes unrewarded, but Adesua Etomi’s dull doll role beside comedian AY in 10 Days in Sun City gets a Best Actress nod. Both Faqua and Etomi must have been surprised but for different reasons.

In a previous piece, I wrote about how Africa Magic brought gloss to Nigerian television and then rewarded its glossy acting products with awards which only made them glossier and hence more award-worthy, so that the cycle continues. This Ouroboros of bad rewarding bad has dire consequences for a system seeking excellence. And there can only be one of two solutions: either the AMVCA becomes better, or a more deserving award scheme comes on the scene.

Because Africa Magic is first and wholly a commercial entity, I’d be backing the latter option. Maybe then a film like Alter Ego can go where bad movies go to die quietly and films like Ojukokoro can receive the awards they deserve.

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is a critic and essayist. His writing on film, books and music appear in The Guardian UK and The Africa Report. He mentored critics at the Durban Film Festival and has attended critic academies in Germany and Holland.In 2015, Aigbokhaevbolo became the first ever winner of the Music/Entertainment Journalist of the Year award (AFRIMA). He tweets @catchoris.

16 Comments

  1. Vics

    July 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you oh, AMVCA is becoming joke. Another bad multi nominated movie for me is Banana Island Ghost. After all the noise about the movie on social media (should have known better) I dragged my entire family, including my DAD to watch the movie, see hissing in the theatre left right and center, chai I was embarrassed. Since then i have learnt my lesson, never believe social media hyped movies until a reliable source gives you an objective review.

    • Elle

      July 14, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      I beg to differ. Banana Island ghost was GOOD!

  2. mya

    July 13, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    THIS!!!! I wish you would have provided more noteworthy films that should have been awarded. The repetitiveness of Ojukokoro comes off as biased but I couldn’t agree with you more! AMVCA’S has been a mess the last few years. HOT MESS!

    • Dolly

      July 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks for being in my head. Well written except one start to wonder if he has major stakes in the movie ojukokoro

  3. yes maam

    July 13, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Lots of other films from other African countries that could have been on the list. Doubt that this is a Nollywood awards. But first you need people who actually understand film giving awards about film….and in that, we are a rather long way off.

  4. Baymax

    July 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    SCREAM IT!!! Can’t believe Adesua got nominated for Best Actress for that dull 10 Days in Sun City. Like seriously????

  5. Billionaire in grace

    July 13, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Lol that’s make me laugh

  6. Physio Tinu

    July 13, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Where can we watch both of them?

  7. Beht why

    July 13, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    I believe the only thing Nollywood has improved on is cinematography. Other than that, it is an endless release of SUPER mediocre movies. Only a couple of underdogs really incorporate originality with brilliant storytelling. We can do better. We surely can.

  8. Just saying

    July 13, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    It’s lost all its credibility this why some film makers chose not to submit

    Bribery for votes and all. I heard a lot of inside gist

    AMVCA in my books PERMANENTLY CANCELLED.

    Biggest Joke of the century

    Change title to NMA *Nigeria Mediocre Awards *

    I bet many are planning to borrow to pose on red carpet.

  9. Just saying

    July 13, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    In a Population of 209 million plus, there are less than 5 excellent actors in nOllywood, 99% actors are mediocre yet, they keep getting praised. I don’t blame them, I blame you people who keep praising them for shitty performance

    • Just saying

      July 13, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      Typo 190 million plus

  10. Uberhaute Looks

    July 14, 2018 at 1:07 am

    Don’t blame them too much when real actors have refused to do the right thing (govt), you don’t expect much from the rest of the population.
    E go better

  11. Ethio

    July 14, 2018 at 9:06 am

    10 days in suncity got nominated for something? LOL that film is even more stupid than the one he spent 30 days in where ever

  12. o

    July 15, 2018 at 10:36 am

    If you talk they’ll call you hater. I can count on one hand how many times I have seen Adesua give an outstanding performance. Most of these new actors are lack luster. The ones really trying are not getting recognition for it. It seems as with all things in Nigeria, it is man know man. AY should be producing movies as he has the money definitely not acting. Even the one with Adeolu getting married but falling for another at his beach bach eve was a collosal waste of time n money. As usual I will watch the award for pure entertainment but not taking it seriously

    • Olaitan

      September 2, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      Absolute waste of time. I was appalled especially because the trailer give me so much hope to expect something interesting

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