AMAA awards fail to live up to hype

Shabby…amateurish…low budget. Those words best describe the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), gala night in Kigali on Saturday.

Earlier before the event, organisers had promised a star-studded evening of “style, prestige, and glamour”. In the end, the only glamorous thing about the gala was the venue –the Intare Conference Arena, one of the country’s newest events and conference hosting venues.

Even with this, however, the question on everybody’s lips was why this choice of venue on the part of organisers. For the average Kigali socialite, this would be the furthest from the city centre that they would be travelling for such an event. Intare Conference Arena is located in Rusororo, Gasabo District, about twenty minutes drive from the city centre.

The event had earlier been scheduled for September 22, at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre.

The venue changed when the Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Development Board and Rwanda Convention Bureau agreed to host this year’s event, in line with Government’s Pan-African and African integration agenda.

It was the first time the AMAAs was coming to East Africa, and only the second time it was being staged outside Nigeria, the founding country.

But for an award that was in its 14th edition (AMAA was initiated by Nigerian filmmaker Peace Anyiam Osigwe in 2005), Saturday’s event was embarrassing to say the very least.

Rudeboy of the former Nigerian R&B duo P-Square performing.

“African” time

The event, that was supposed to kick off at 6pm, started almost four hours late!

Until about 8:30 pm, when co-MC Arthur Nkusi took to the stage, nobody knew what was going on. Up to this point, the only solace had been the back-to-back video mixes by DJ Bisosso.

With Nkusi on stage, everyone thought it was finally show time. We could not have been more wrong. Instead, he asked guests to take advantage of the specially built outdoor photo booth to take pictures and selfies.

Sebeya band, former Nyundo students, staged a lackluster performance, featuring mostly renditions of popular Nigerian and South African songs.

A traditional dance troupe performed, as well as Bruce Melodie, whose performance came as a total surprise as it had not been advertised.

Nigerian filmmaker and entertainment executive Peace Anyiam Osigwe speaks about the role of AMAA 2018 in Rwanda. 

No glitz and glamour

Certainly this was not “the most prestigious award in Africa” or “most sought after event in the African movie world” like organisers claimed.

The founder, Peace Anyiam Osigwe, variously described AMAAs as “the leading and most respected film awards on the continent”, “the only academy awards besides the Oscars”, and “the African Oscars”. However, juxtaposed with what actually transpired at the Intare Arena, her statements were more than just exaggeration.

Revellers take selfies

Empty seats, dry throats

To say that the whole event was run on a miserly and shoe string budget would be to put it mildly.

There was no such thing as an opening reception as is synonymous with award galas like these. On arrival, guests to the event just walked in and took their seats.

There, they were to be met by empty tables devoid of anything –no wine, no champagne, no beer, not even soda or water. Not even the two rows of VIP tables, or the jury’s table at the back of the crowd bore any signs of complimentary drinks or bites.

Only a few bottles of water were passed clandestinely around to guests that insisted on a drink.

At one point Nkusi, one of the MCs, poked fun at the situation, wondering what had become of the much-hyped Nigerian culture of “chopping money”.

Those with some money simply walked to the nearby Bourbon Coffee outlet for coffee, water and some snacks. It was quite a spectacle watching some of the Nigerian invitees at the VIP section walk in with big brown envelopes bulging with food, which they had bought from outside.

Sebeya band during their performance. 

Nigerian affair

Nearly half the audience was Nigerian filmmakers and actors, who had flown in specifically for the event. With the exception of actor Chinedu Ikedieze, however, the rest were little known to the Rwandan audience.

To make matter worse, the days’ MCs, Nkusi and Nigerian actress Nse Ikpe were the definition of a “match made in hell”. It was clear from the word go that there was no chemistry between the two, a fact that Ikpe did little to hide.

Ikpe assumed an overbearing and condescending attitude towards her co-MC, frequently admonishing him for his remarks like a kindergarten teacher, would do a wayward learner.

That was not all. She kept sending out big ups and honorary mentions to different Nigerian movie and fashion personalities, even those that were not in attendance.

When it came to the actual dishing out of the awards, the full magnitude of the disorganisation finally manifested.

For starters, more than half the number of award winners were a no-show at the gala, but that was not the saddest bit about it. The saddest bit is that the announcers did not know which winners had shown up and those that had not. A name would be called out, only for no one to show up to claim the award.

At hand to close the show was Nigerian singer Rudeboy, who came on stage past midnight. By this time, hardly anybody in the crowd was still interested in his performance. The most pressing thing on people’s minds was to get back to town or to their homes.

Some award winners shed tears of joy as they accepted their awards.