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Peace Anyim-Osigwe On A Show Beyond The Continent

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Peace Anyim-Osigwe On A Show Beyond The Continent


Osigwe2Her poise is a striking feature, easily noticeable, as she walks in. Our meeting point that sunny Tuesday morning is GreenVILLE Coffee Shop on Isaac John Street, Ikeja. Her ‘go-getter’ attitude is also visible as she settles herself comfortably on a chair across the table, while ordering a cup of coffee. She is not there alone, her publicist, Tope, is there with her also. I placed the tape on the table between, as it starts to spur.

Peace Anyim-Osigwe’s journey into the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) may have been a long and tortuous one, but what started a few years ago as a Nigerian vision has become a continental one. Six years down the line, the AMAA award now speaks for itself. “The recognition of the award internationally is even more than the recognition it gets locally, and that amazes me,” says an elated Anyim-Osigwe.

“The Ghanaians who won at the last awards are celebrating with their president, vice president, and ministers. They are all excited because they won nine awards. AMAA is a big event in Ghana. The other day, I got a phone call from Angola telling me the people recognise what we are trying to do with the award. Issues like this, make it easier for me to understand that there is an acceptability of what we are trying to achieve. There is that African connectivity in filmmaking”.

For those who won at this year’s award, the joy of the AMAA is the joy of the people that won and this, Anyim-Osigwe says touches her. The sincerity of emotions that came out of the people who won, who never thought they could win are things that make a great deal of difference for her. “The guy from Egypt, who couldn’t make it because the Nigerian Embassy didn’t get his visa on time, won in the best animation category. He told me he has sent out so many press releases on his winning, he’s calling me everyday. We had to package his award to him by DHL. He thought we could be there to present it to him in Egypt. Africa has recognised what we are doing”.

The dream that began six years ago has grown bigger than Anyim-Osigwe herself, as the biggest dream is therefore its continuity, yet she takes solace in the encouraging words of her African brothers in the Diaspora, Forest Whitaker and Danny Glover whose shoulders she constantly leans. “You have people who will call you on the day of the AMAA, people like Forest or Danny, to encourage you. No matter the stress you are going through; when you get those kinds of people saying you have to continue, deep down in your heart, you know that you are doing something right. My biggest problem is continuity”.

And so, AMAA has grown beyond its initiator, as many countries on the continent are jostling to host the next edition of the award. “Two days after AMAA,” she recalls with a smile, “I was invited to Ghana by a prospective sponsor. I have been there twice already to have meetings with them and that’s what we are going to do. We are going to really go out and look for sponsors”.

“In other word, next year’s AMAA might be in Ghana,” I asked. “It can be anywhere it wants to be right now,” she answers promptly with pride, “but the most important thing is that AMAA has to be where the people recognise its value in terms of local planning. It’s an event that attracts a lot of people. When I started the AMAA, I probably never knew what I was getting into, that’s the truth. And I probably never believed that it would grow so fast.

“I tell you about the argument we are having now with our Africans in the Diaspora, people like Forest Whitaker, CC Pounder, Tyler Perry, etc, all these arguments about opening it up for everybody to be in competition. That is, all the films from all Africans in the world to be opened. I told them that’s why you have the Africans in the Diaspora category, as we have short film and feature film. That is how they recognise it. For them, this is the award. If you listened to Glynn, he was like: ‘this is not just for you guys.’ It’s for everybody; we need to be totally involved. So, how do you now start to control all that? That’s why we have meetings, and we are having an annual general meeting in July with our board. And we are going to try and make everybody understand that it’s a gradual process. There are Africans in the Diaspora who would be encouraged to join the AMAA through the Diaspora Award, which was instituted this year”.

Be that as it may, the 2010 edition of AMAA surely came with its challenges. There was the issue of the last minute decision taken by government officials who don’t probably realise how important it is to do things on time. “The only sponsor that came on board early enough was UBA, because we had a three year contract with them and they are still maintaining their relationship with us. But even the difficulties that were on ground, I mean, you have to have compromises on all sides, but at least within the time frame they were supposed to do something, they did”.

According to Anyim-Osigwe, her team had been on the awards for over nine months. “We had been planning everything, we had a new logistics person and it was all in-house. So, we were pretty much organised, we were just waiting for our sponsors to come on-board as they usually did and the first incident was obviously getting the sponsors. Sometimes, when you want a sponsor they keep on promising you that they are coming on board, but eventually they will either tell you something at the last minute”.

Osigwe3In the last edition, the host state, Bayelsa had challenges and Anyim-Osigwe believes AMAA should not have been affected by these challenges because the state’s hosting rights are due almost nine months before the awards, just like it is for most other events all over the world.  “And the challenge for AMAA most especially, is the fact that it’s like hosting the Commonwealth Games, it’s like hosting one of the national festivals where your challenge is bringing everybody in. So, it’s a whole year of functionality, it doesn’t happen over night. “The most expensive aspect of AMAA sometimes I think is not even the awards ceremony itself, but the process of getting the films in, screening the films. It takes us approximately three months to get to the point where nominations are announced. But after nominations, we spend approximately another month in the look for all the jury members, and then they spend 10 days in Nigeria actually deciding”.

However, for the 2011 award, AMAA has been repositioned in a way that anyone hosting, any state, or country has to take a decision and implement it before the last quarter of the year preceding the award, which gives the organisers six months to do what they have to do. This is to make sure they don’t have any excuse on logistics about the event.

Anyim-Osigwe sure have her hands in so many things, including being the content provider for the AFRIFF, a film festival, that grew out of the ION film festival held in Rivers State last year. “One of the things that I feel I contribute to anything that has to do with festivals in Nigeria is my technical knowledge. I’m tired of seeing a lot of festivals going on without having the content that will make a festival what it’s supposed to be. So, when I was approached by them, I basically spoke about the content area of the festival”.

She does not see her involvement in AFRIFF causing any conflict between AMAA and the film festival. “I don’t see it like that in the sense that let me be honest with you, last year it was held in Rivers State and I attended, everybody attended. For me, it is a film festival. Cannes cannot compete with the Oscars. I am aware AMAA is holding next year, but the Bayelsa State has to meet our own deadline, not theirs.

“Not by virtue of you deciding what you want to do at what time you want to do it, no. We can’t afford that because the AMAA has left my hand, it has gone beyond me in every ramification. I’ve let go off it because the worst thing I can do is to try and hold on to it because it’s not mine to hold on to. I’ve allowed the Board to take the decision that needs to be taken. I can step down as CEO anytime, I have actually given them the notice that in the next few years I would love to have someone else run the AMAA and go back to my total creative world, which has not been easy running an event with, and just make films”.

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