My mom was the one that wanted me to be girly but I don’t think that I can be the girly, girly type.
Peace Anyiam-Osigwe is the founder and chief executive of Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), which is assiduously working on the 2018 edition taking place outside the country for the second time. The event will hold in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. In this interview she talks about her early life, parents, passion and the expectations at AMAA Awards in Kigali.
Fourteen years after you founded Africa Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, have you achieved your goals?
I think AMAA is work in progress, but I think we are getting there. I am hoping that it is setting itself up to run itself. It is not so much about me. I want people to deal with AMAA as a brand. It is very difficult in Nigeria, when you want your brand not to be associated with you.
Could you tell us more about the award this year?
This year is going to be the second time that the main event would be holding outside Nigeria. This year, it will hold in Kigali, Rwanda. AMAA is 14 and it’s been a long, hard road. There is a reason for keeping it going. I feel that a lot of things changed within the industry when AMAA came along, especially in terms of quality control. Therefore, a lot of people say to us that we are always very choosy in our nominations. Our reason for that is very simple. Film has one language, so the quality of a product should be able to travel to anybody to understand what you are saying. You can’t just make a film because of the Nigerian audience; there’s the world audience. For me, it is important that the language of form is something that everybody can relate to. I think that is one of the reasons that the AMAA jury system is something that I have tried as much as possible to leave where it is. I am totally not involved in the screening process, which has had Shuaibu Hussain, as the chair of the screening committee in the last 10 years. Every single film that comes into AMAA must be watched from the beginning to the end. We don’t compromise on that. For me, that is one major achievement that AMAA has done – that is, trying to encapsulate what a quality product is from the continent and from the Diaspora and then push it out there.
I have heard that you are writing a book. What is the message in the book you are writing at the moment?
The book is about me and my journey in the creative industry. The working title at the moment is driven by Passion.
What motivated you to write this book?
I think people have to kind of hear the fact that I started writing when I was nine years old. I want people to know my story and all the things that I do. I realize that sometimes, it is important to tell your own story, in your own words. So, that you can also have young people realize that you don’t give up. You just have to keep dreaming and realizing those dreams.
What were you writing about as a kid?
My mom said that I was always writing about the things that I didn’t like. I was brought up as an only girl. I had seven brothers and I found writing as a way of expressing myself, my thoughts and the different things around me. Even in school, things were different; there were only two black kids in my school. So, I felt odd, learning and unlearning make-up because what they were using on their face was not what I could use on my face. I wrote poetry and I have two or three poetry books. There is one that is called the peace of my mind and another one. I also wrote a lot of articles.
Did living with seven brothers affect your outlook in life?
Yes, it did. I’m a total tomboy. That was why my mom sent me to an all-girls boarding school.
Did that change your perspective about life?
Not really. At the end of the day, I still went home to my brothers. They affected my life more and then I was very close to my father too. My mom was the one that wanted me to be girly but I don’t think that I can be the girly, girly type.
Can we say that you were daddy’s girl?
Yes, in all things. In my faith; my ability to just not be afraid, to take up challenges and letting me be very independent. My dad made me extremely independent. I don’t know if that works in the Nigerian system for a woman. He also changed a lot of things. For instance, in the village, Nkwerre, he built a place for me and people were surprised. But he said he wanted me to go into the village whenever I want to. So, those are the things that make me a daddy’s girl.
What lessons has life taught you?
Life has taught me gratitude. A few years ago, I got sick; my skin changed colour. I just woke up and my skin started changing colour and just about finding out what it was, I lost my brother, Michael, who was running the Foundation. He went for something and then, they shot him. So, my perspectives in life changed totally in terms of living our life just as it is and in turn I realized that everyday could be your last. I don’t think anything can change you more than something that is significant. He had just been with me in the hospital. When you go through such experiences like that then live your life for the best; don’t live it for anybody else. Don’t try to prove any point to anybody but just be as good as you can to the next person.
Please talk about some memorable moments with AMAA
The first year, the hall was still being built a few days to the event. The fact that we couldn’t get enough hotels in Bayelsa, people staying in rooms without air conditioners. Just the fact that the hall was still being worked on, all has stuck with us. In terms of the different things that you experience when you are preparing for an event, being on the East/West road, travelling, and the journeys on that road. Anyway, you never had any accident and so you are grateful. It is not easy keeping a brand going for 15 years especially in Nigeria.
For this year, what specific things can people look forward to in Kigali?
We would have a roundtable in Kigali and one of the issues we would be discussing is distribution. How do we get to see our own films? We must get to the point where some of these films are given chance to be seen in our cinema houses. It is not good to make up the minds of Nigerian audience, whether this film would be watched or not. For instance, South African films have issues with our Nigerian cinema houses; our decisions as to whether those films would be watched or not.
The stereotyping that we have doesn’t help if you want to bring a major film into the cinema. I would say that the opportunity is something that we are working on. If nothing, the media should see the top five movies that are in competition. This way they can understand our justifications. What they are looking for is not something that an average person is looking for. At the bottom and at the back end, there is the orientation.
If a film that wins cannot travel post-AMAA, there is a major problem. What it means is that all the jury members would not know what to do. What I keep saying to filmmakers in Nigeria is that, ‘you have to bring yourself out. When you do this, you get the international mileage.’ Here, you immediately premier it and release it for the cinema. This way you limit your ability to make that film travel, that is the truth.
Once you show it, and people start to comment on it, it’s limited. With due respect to the Nigerian audience, you have three sets. There are audiences in Nigeria that would never understand certain films, that is the reality. And to those people, they are not looking at the quality control that you are looking at. So some films appeal to a particular clientele. We must never try to generalize our audience because of the way the average Nigerian has been brought up.