In 2013, MultiChoice Africa held the first ever Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA).
Since then, the Pan African movie awards, often regarded as Africa’s Oscars, have wave after wave grown to become the continent’s most recognised awards.
It is not just about the popularity emanating from the glitz, glamour and razzmatazz that characterises the awards but the contribution they are making to the growth of film industry in Africa.
Each year, the number of entries continue to swell and for the 2018 edition, close to 3 000 were received from all corners of Africa and, of course, the diaspora.
Along the way, a number of elements have been changed, fine-tuned or introduced, including the introduction of the new categories like the best movie southern, eastern and western Africa in 2016.
This was in response to concerns that the awards were being dominated by Nigeria, followed by Ghana, Kenya and South Africa in that order.
At one of the MultiChoice Africa continental events in Mauritius, journalists from southern Africa in particular, took to task officials from the continent’s leading pay television provider over prioritising content from Nigeria at the expense of enormous talent from the continent.
Since then, MultiChoice has opened a number of channels on its DStv and GOtv platforms dedicated to specific regions—Zambezi Magic in the case of southern Africa.
But it is not Nigeria’s fault that it dominates the AMVCA in that manner. The country remains the country that contributes most of the African content on Africa Magic channels through its productions.
Since the introduction of the best movie in southern Africa, Malawi, whose movie industry is still in infancy, has bagged two of the three awards given out so far.
Joyce Mhango-Chavula made history in 2016 when she won the inaugural award and made Malawi become the third country in southern Africa to be recognised after South Africa and Zambia.
Mhango-Chavula’s film, Lilongwe, beat stiff competition from industry giant South Africa to get the golden award. And in that way, a movie shot in a space of 12 days with K1.5 million spent, Lilongwe sent some tongues wagging while the award was a breakthrough for Malawi.
In 2017, the award went to South Africa but before long, it returned to its original home, Malawi during the 2018 edition of the awards when Charles Shemu Joyah’s The Road to Sunrise got the accolade.
In fact, Malawi was a stronger contender for the award this year as it had two nominations in this
category. Mhango-Chavula’s Nyasaland was among the five nominees.
What has been Malawi’s secret behind this success? How has the country managed to do well and beat continental industry giants like South Africa?
“I am not sure if one can call it a secret, but I would say that the quality of Malawian films is steadily improving and they are getting their due recognition,” says Joyah.
“The Malawi film industry is definitely getting better.
“However, I would not be under the illusion that we are now better than South Africa. South Africa consistently produces quality films whereas we produce a good one once in a while. If we are to catch up with South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and the North African countries we need to do much more.
“This is suffice to say that, Malawi is making strides in the movie-making industry according to the filmmaker.
“Malawi is making a powerful statement of its intent. However, we need to be consistent and also get awards in the other categories, like cinematography, editing, production design etc.
“Also take note that Malawi had three films nominated at the African Movie Academy Awards this year, which have a longer history than AMVCA since they are now in their fourteenth year. So, yes, the African filmmaking landscape has a new player worth taking seriously.”
The AMVCAs are the biggest celebration of outstanding achievements in the African film and television industry by recognising both established as well as up-and-coming industry talents.
The AMVCA has also been able to contribute meaningfully to the recognition of women working in the film and television industry as well as helping them emerge from the shadows of their male counterparts.
As a trailblazer, Mhango-Chavula, who is one of the women making brilliant work behind the scenes, the two big recognitions and others are a testament of how the industry is slowly gaining ground.
“This is evident by the number of international producers wanting to shoot films here. But also it means there is a lot of potential in Malawi if we are able to win such big awards with our small budgets,” she said.
The awards give audiences a chance to vote their best films and filmmakers on the continent. Over 10 000 entries have been received since the beginning of the awards while before the 2018 edition where 27 awards were given out, 151 awards had been handed out since inception.
Filmmaker Phillippe Talavera whose production Salute! was the first Namibian film nominated for the AMCVA and faced two Malawian films in the just-ended awards, says there is something Malawi is doing right to set a record of winning two awards in three years.
“I haven’t seen The Road to Sunrise but since it won many prizes, including prizes in the States, I have no doubt it is of a high standard. I am absolutely amazed by the Malawi’s film industry. It is true that, sadly, in SADC we all tend to consider South Africa as being the big brother.
“But the truth is that we all have our own stories to tell. We all have amazing story tellers. The fact that Malawi won twice is a great achievement,” said Talavera. n