Meet Nollywood Stars | 19 April 2009 09:25 CET

Big stars gang up against AMAA


Once upon a time, venue of Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) usually served as meeting point for entertainment stars across the spectrum of Nollywood and beyond. It is not uncommon to see the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Nouah, Stella Damasus-Nzeribe, Omotola, Rita Dominic, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Uche Jombo, Ini Edo, Mercy Johnson, Jim Iyke and the likes at AMAA, but this year witnessed a reversal in fortune as these big stars kept away from the Glover Hall at Bayelsa State, the venue of the award.

Findings by Showbiz Now reveals that the stars decided to stay away to protest some certain grievances they have against AMAA and its organisers. It would be recalled that two weeks ago, we reported and quoted star actor, Emeka Ike, saying he has some grudges with AMAA. And from what played out last week at the UBA/AMAA, it appears he is not the only one that has grudges.

Though no official meeting was held against AMAA, the stars in solidarity with one another decided to stay away from the event. For instance, Funke Akindele and Mercy Johnson, both award winners, were not present to receive their awards. Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji, Uche Jombo, Susan Peters were all at Thelma Okodua's wedding at Lekki, Lagos where Rita was the bride of honour. Eucharia Anunobi was not there, Ini Edo was on set while Omotola was simply at home. Ramsey Nouah was on set of Kunle Afolayan's set and Kunle himself whom many see as AMAA's baby was not there.

These stars Stephanie Okereke (who refused to speak about the award when we spoke to her despite always being enthusiastic about it in the past), Chinedu Ikedieze, Kate Henshaw, Fred Amata, Patrick Doyle were the few handful stars that made it to the event. Though the English genre stars were absent, the Yoruba stars took over and they were heavily represented by Femi Brainard, Doris Simon, Eniola Badmus (Gbogbo Bigz gal), Tunde Kelani and a few others.

One star actress who spoke to us on condition that we keep her name out of print told us that AMAA treats stars as if they are not stars. “Can you imagine an award ceremony that has to do with actors and actresses and they have to sit with the audience as spectators? A colleague of mine that called them for the sitting arrangement at the dinner they had in Lagos was told bluntly that there was no special sitting arrangement for stars. If they want us to show loyalty to the award, they should treat us like stars that we are.”

Another actor who also prefers anonymity said he was not at AMAA because the whole concept was designed to make the organisers rich and nothing is added or given back to the industry. “What do I stand to gain by attending AMAA?”, he asked us when we asked him about his absence at AMAA. I will not only waste my time and energy going there, I would have to leave behind things that would fetch me money and add values to my life. In other parts of the world, award organisers give incentives to make stars want to come, but here, UBA/AMAA goes about as if it is doing us one huge favour by inviting us.”

One top producer queries AMAA for asking filmmakers to submit entries for the awards. “Why should filmmakers submit entries for the award? I expect AMAA, as the foremost award body in Nigeria, to have people who scout for movies and individuals that deserve entries.”
Mildreb Okwo, producer of 30 Days who agreed to be quoted told us on record that for AMAA to continue to hold the interest of top stars, it must get more creative in the way it invites and treats the stars. “I don't think any big star purposely gang up against AMAA as you said.

The truth is, no matter how big you get or how relevant an event is, you must find innovative ways to bring the stars to your event. You must create a platform that will make them not want to miss it. As big as Oscars has gotten, they still go out marketing to the actors. When stars go the Oscars, they are given all types of gifts that worth millions. I know we are not Hollywood, but you must find a way to make it worth people's time. As it is, Nollywood hardly work now and you want those that are working to leave their job and go to Bayelsa.

Why should they be committed to you? That is the question every business person must ask. The days of thinking that you 'it' and you can get what you want are gone. This is for everybody. You can see the way Governor Fashola goes about with his consultation. Don't think once you do something everybody must rush it. They should have reason to want to go to your event. You must also infuse creativity into the way you invite the people. We should stop referring to the actors as 'these people', they are stars.

They are brand. Samuel, you are also a brand, there are things we don't expect from you. As brands, you must find a way of getting them to the event. It is ridiculous to do the same thing year-in year-out and keep people interested. Funke Akindele is one of the hottest stars right now. Why should she leave what she is doing and fly to attend your award? You must motivate her. Whatever you do to get these people there, you must do it. You must have people who market the award to them.”
Another actor wondered why the organisers stop giving monetary rewards to winners. “if they get the kind of money we heard they are getting, there is nothing bad if they give monetary reward.”
However, head of screeners College of AMAA Mr Shuaibu Hussan, disagrees.

“AMAA is not just a Nigerian affairs, it is an African thing. If some people did not respond to an invitation , it does not mean there is a gang up. I don't know where you got this from. Invitation cards were sent to people and none of them wrote to say they were ganging up. If they did not respond, that means they have other things they are doing. If you were at AMAA, you will know that the industry was well represented. If people who have private engagements did not make the event, it does not mean there is a gang up against AMAA. AMAA is not a Nigerian thing, it is an African thing.”

When we pressed further that something must have gone wrong for the very big stars to be absent from the event, he requested that we read out names of those that were absent and we did. Responding, Shuaibu says the big stars need to be more professional. “Some of these stars need to be more professional in the way they handle their things. Some of them don't even have addresses. There are some that you are talking about that don't have functioning email addresses. Some of them expect you to go and drop invitation cards for them at Ojez. Some of them don't have functioning offices.

Some of them don't even know AGN's secretariat. We called some people and they asked us to drop their cards at Ojez. Is that supposed to be a greenroom for artistes? For instance, Genevieve that you are talking about, I have about six numbers that are supposed to be hers. Even trying to get to her as a journalist has been harrowing, not to talk of somebody that is organising an event. So, what are we talking about? If AMAA invites you and they ask you to respond and you don't because you are a star, will they now go to NTA and announce that we are looking for so and so?

We have people that are not part of the event that called and asked on how to be part of it while major players can't even send their personal assistants. They need to be more professional. Call them to send a media kit on themselves and you will be dazed that they don't have it. On a personal level, I've tried to get them for festivals abroad and it's been difficult. I'm not saying AMAA is perfect, but these people are not organised. There is no star that came to the event that was not well treated. I don't think anybody will fault the AMAA awards itself, you may fault the logistics, particularly because of high profile of jury.

On Emeka Ike, Shuaibu says whatever view he expressed is his own opinion. He faulted him on claim that AMAA has not developed the industry. “The movie, Stronger than Pain that won last year has been to festivals around the world courtesy of recommendation from AMAA. Kate Henshaw has participated in some international events courtesy of winning. That is not the only film. Whitewaters has travelled to festivals courtesy of AMAA. Look at Irapada by Kunle Afolayan, it has been to festivals around the world, courtesy of AMAA. Again, the AMAA Academy organises training for people in the industry.

The members of the jury participate at festivals around the world and if they see good movies at AMAA, they are quick in making recommendations to other festivals. I know that Kenyan movies and Reloaded have gotten invitations to participate in festivals around the world, courtesy of their participation at AMAA. Some people should not rubbish AMAA because they've not won it before.”

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