The AMVCA 2017 ceremony last night was a very delightful experience and I am not even joking. It was a show well put together, consciously designed to entertain the audience, recognize and reward excellence. Unconsciously, however, it presented moments that offered valuable lessons in wisdom and human relations that can never be taught in a classroom. One look at all of the nominations for the various categories, I felt proud and confident in the knowledge that the movie industry, not just in Nigeria but indeed Africa, has grown both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Building on the international standards aimed for by the organizers at the awards last year, the 2017 AMVCA takes it further. Surely, it may not yet be at the level of the Oscars and other coveted award bodies around the world, but it is taking steady steps to getting there.

With the whole concept of “African timing” thrashed at the AMVCA 2017, the evening began on schedule with opening skits by the hosts IK Osadiuwa and Minnie which was followed Timi Dakolo’s performance of the AMVCA theme song. Subsequently pulsated by the right interludes of great musical pieces from the likes of Simi, Lira, DNA Twins (who need to be more confident in their performance by the way) and the Bolanle Austen Peters production, the show was one for the members of the audience and viewers at home to enjoy.

Generally, there were expected winners in some of the categories. Funke Akindele’s win of the best actress in a comedy for the 3rd year in a row was one of them as was Jenifa’s Diary’s win of the best comedy TV series. Rita Dominic who looked every inch like perfection, did also win the best actress in a movie, which was not a surprise to many. And then, there were underdogs that challenged expectations and moments that defined the entire experience of AMVCA 2017.

Funke Akindele receiving her award for best actress in a comedy at AMVCA 2017

One of such was Sambasa Nzeribe’s emergence as best actor in a movie, a category that had the likes of Olu Jacobs, Richard Mofe Damijo, Ramsey Noah Jr; “legends and gods of the industry” as he called them. “It is with your permission that I win this award”, a visibly shaken Sambasa said to the amusement of his seniors before going on to seal that mark of respect with a full prostration live on stage. He didn’t have to, but you see in that moment and by that act, Sambasa Nzeribe melted hearts and earned not just the goodwill of the other nominees, but that of everyone else both in the audience and at home. It was not just humility, it was wisdom. Forgive me if it appears like I am reading too much meaning to that gesture but the markers of good breeding and commonsense cannot be overlooked sometimes.

Another moment of such sweetness at AMVCA 2017 was during the merit award presentation to Nollywood great, Chief Chika Okpala aka Chief Zebrudayya of the New Masquerade fame. First off, I respect the efforts of the organisers at celebrating the works and contributions of these legends every year, one person at a time while they are alive. There aren’t many feelings that trump the sense of joy and fulfillment the experience brings to the recipients. But even in his moment of crowning, Chief Okpala chose to share the spotlight with another Nollywood great, Nkem Owoh aka Osuofia. Who knew Nkem Owoh was one of the writers of New Masquerade? With that revelation was a renewed sense of admiration of both men and I hope someday, he too will be “celebrated publicly” in the words of Chika Okpala.

The Bolanle Austen Peters performing at AMVCA 2017

As host, IK Osadiuwa remains exciting to watch every time and pairing with Minnie Dlami for the second year is even more exciting. The duo bring a synergy that makes our experience of the show under their guide memorable. I especially love how IK takes well-timed jabs at the recipients. Take the jokes on Rotimi Salimi, (the winner for best supporting actor in a comedy for example who was all pomp and youthful exuberance, I dare say) and on Imeh Bishop Umoh who showed up on stage with his “village relatives”.

Meanwhile, while we are still reeling in the euphoria of last night, can I make a passionate appeal that award recipients begin to learn the art of making memorable acceptance speeches instead of naming their entire ancestry? I’m just grateful to the likes of  Somkele idhalama and Rita Dominic whose speeches saved the night.

The night was also filled with very emotionally charged moments and general excitement by winners and their friends and families. The awards itself now means something far tangible and offers huge validation for the craft of nominees and winners alike. Gradually, it is raising the standard and offering a compelling reason for folks in the industry, and even in fashion, to strive for excellence. Nollywood has grown from that point where someone could tell the entire plot of a movie from the whack scams they called soundtracks to a place where excellence is not only sought in soundtracks/original scores but also deliberately recognised and rewarded.

It was a great show yesterday at AMVCA 2017. I cannot say it enough. And though Nollywood dominated the various categories, it was a great time to cast our minds back to the strides the industry across the continent has made in the past year as we all look forward to the coming year. Rita Dominic did well to highlight the important roles movies like 76 play in telling about the events and people in history who have shaped Nigeria and one can only hope that more movies find this depth and meaning in the coming year.

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