Talking film: With 14 nominations for Uganda at the just-concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards this year, it is sad to imagine that Uganda came home empty-handed. But what could have gone wrong?
While flying back to Uganda through Nairobi last Monday, the captain announced that in 15 minutes, we would be landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
We had been flying for over four hours from Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja in Lagos, Nigeria, but the captain did not only announce the landing, he went on to congratulate a team of Kenyan filmmakers that were coming back from Nigeria.
The Kenyan team had won six awards in the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs) that took place at the plush Eko Suites in Lagos, Victoria Islands.
For a moment, as almost the entire cabin section was clapping, celebrating the Kenyan pride, it felt like DSTV through the award show was successfully uniting a continent but deep down, even the Kenyan filmmakers knew this was far from the fact.
The event that took place on Saturday at 8pm Nigerian time was far from an African celebration of film but a Nigerian one; celebrating the sixth edition, the awards are the pay TV’s flagship celebration of film and a TV brand that was thought to unite African entertainment at its inauguration in 2003.
Then, the station gave a taste of Uganda with the screening of Fate by Cindy Magara, The Ebonies’ That’s Life Mwattu, plus Nollywood and Ghallywood magic, and the TV station quickly became a hit.
Today, Africa Magic TV has multiplied by six. There is more content being produced in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, among others and yet, none of the six Africa Magic channels feature content from other African industries besides Nigeria.
Much as DSTV had tried to address such concerns in the past by setting up Maisha Magic East and Mzanzi Magic for both East and southern Africa, people from these territories hate the fact that these channels are locked to certain territories.
For instance, whereas a Ugandans can freely access Africa Magic Hausa or Yoruba, Maisha Magic East is restricted to screen only in East Africa. Folks in Nigeria have no idea it exists and therefore have no business with the content it exhibits.
Of course, in the past, Africa Magic had been key in bringing shows such as Big Brother Africa and Studio 53 to the continent.
Today, Big Brother has since become a Naija affair and similarly, Studio 53 which was then hinged on happenings in 53 African countries now features celebrities and events that happen in Nigeria.
During the AMVCAs, all these wrongs came out to play, straight from the red carpet. Africa’s supposed biggest film night suffered with a diversity problem.
The Nigerian hosts of 53 Extra (formerly Studio 53) or Jara had no idea who the other nominated actors or actresses were and as a result went for the people they knew — the Nigerians.
Of course, it became disheartening for nominees from other countries that thought they would at least get an interview with 53 Extra.
“Then why do they still maintain the 53 tag? Do they know what it means?” asked a disgruntled nominee.
For the past six editions of the awards, majority of the accolades have been won by Nigerian actors, actresses and producers. As the show became bigger, categories for indigenous languages were introduced. Unfortunately all the languages are from Nigeria.
Much as the awards show is one of the most covered, enthusiasts of film have always questioned the process which many claim is only appeasing Nigeria as DSTV’s biggest market in Africa.
And of course others believe that every year the initiative is skewed towards celebrating Nigeria in an African disguise. They miss an opportunity of becoming the unifying factor for film on the continent.
For a show whose six editions have all happened in Lagos, with a Nigerian host, the wider audience and other industries believe the AMVCAs have missed the opportunity to show that film talent in Africa is not just in Nigeria.
• Uganda received 14 nominations, which called for celebration. However, the team of actors and producers got a cold reception in Lagos that unlike other continental award shows, media totally blacked them out of interviews and photoshoots.
Samuel Kizito’s The Forbidden with a winning streak that has stretched to the Zanzibar International Film Festival had better chances of bringing Uganda’s second AMVCA though they all lost to Kenya’s 18 Hours.