Late veteran actor Justus Esiri last night emerged the Best Actor in Africa at the ninth annual Africa Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, held at the Gloryland Cultural Center in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Esiri was adjudged the Best Actor for his Lead Role in the movie, “Assassins Practice”.
He beat others like OC Ukeje, Lindani NKosi, Bimbo Manuel, Hlomla Dandala, Femi Jacobs and Amurin Wumnembom to clinch the coveted prize.
The legendary actor’s statuette was received by Ibinabo Fiberesinma, President, Actors’ Guild of Nigeria.
“Heroes And Zeroes”, a gripping story film by Koga Entertainment Production, clinched three awards. They are “Achievement in Editing”, Achievement in Screenplay and Best Director statuette for ace filmmaker Niji Akanni.Obi Emelonye’s “Last Flight To Abuja” continued its winning streaks as the flick won the “Best Film By An African Abroad”.
“Confusion Na Wa” a part-pidgin movie won the Best Nigerian Film, while the Promising Act of The Year award went to fast rising actress Belinda Effah.
Other Nigerian winners at the award ceremony which ran into the early hours of today were Gabriel Afolayan who won the Best Supporting Actor for his stellar role in “Hoodrush”, the Achievement In Make Up award went to “The Meeting” and the Achievement in Visual Effects was won by “Twin Sword”.
In total, Nigerians won a total of 14 out of the 27 awards given out at this year’s AMAA. This set a new record for the continent.
South Africa trailed far behind with three awards including that of Florence Masbe who emerged the Best Actress In Africa for her role in the hit movie “Elelwani”.
Speaking at the ceremony, Seriake Dickson, Governor, Bayelsa State, welcomed all the stars and dignitaries to the state. He expressed delight that the awards ceremony was brought back to the state where it begins.
Dickson told the audience and millions of television viewers who stayed glue to see the glittering awards ceremony live that his government is determined to position Bayelsa State as one of the key investment destinations in Nigeria with emphases on entertainment and tourism. He later announced an initial donation of a N250million-Bayelsa Film Trust Fund.
The fund, he said is to encourage the youth of Bayelsa to develop their creativity.
Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, CEO, AMAA, said it is a thing of joy to her and the academy that the awards ceremony is gradually achieving its set goals of unifying African filmmakers.
She expressed hope that next year edition which will mark the tenth anniversary of the awards will be grander.
The AMAA boss later called for a minute silence in honour of Efere Ozako, late entertainment lawyer who died last week. Some actors who also died in the last one year were also remembered during the ceremony.
London-based international film curator, June Givanni, who held this year’s AMAA Jury, pointed out that apart from the fact that the numbers of entries this year have increased, the quality of entries received also improved tremendously.
Apart from award winners, AMAA honoured some film legends including Chief Eddie Ugboma, OON, Sir Osifadinma Okeke, Ayuko Babu, Pete Edochie and Tunde Kelani with the “Life Time Achievement Awards”.
Special Recognition awards were also given to others including ace movie director and producer, Emem Isong, top actors, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Kenneth Okonkwo and the Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria, FVPMAN. They were all described as “pillars of Nollywood.”
In the tradition of AMAA, famous Hollywood actor, Mario Van Pebbles, was invited as a special guest.
The famous producer of the hit gangster film, “New Jack City” was visibly so excited to be in Africa for the first time.
“I feel so good being around here. I have been so enthralled by the green scenery and the fly overs. I wish to see more of these in your movies,” said Van Peebles.
Personalities at the event included Mr. Edem Duke, Nigeria’s Minister for Culture and Tourism, who stood for President Goodluck Jonathan, representatives of Mrs. Joyce Banda, President of Republic of Malawi, South African High Commissioner to Nigeria and many movie stars.