Gugu Sibiya reporting from Ikeja in Lagos, Nigeria
When the children of mother Africa gather at the 3rd yearly African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) tomorrow, it will not only signal the coming together of African filmmakers.
The ceremony in Yenegoa, in Nigeria's Bayelsa state, will also be the culmination of a dream of a brave and pioneering Nigerian advocate, Peace Osigwe.
Her love of films has seen her neatly fold and put away her lawyer's gown in favour of the lights-camera-action life.
In between meetings to put the final touches to the ceremony, Osigwe reluctantly took a breather to chat to Sowetan yesterday at the beautiful Elomaz hotel in Maryland, Lagos.
"After watching and attending a lot of film awards, I came to the conclusion that as much as we [Africans] make a lot of films, both in English and French, we are always reduced to the Foreign Film category when we enter competitions internationally. Besides, we never reward or encourage ourselves adequately.
"So when I came up with the idea for the awards, confining them exclusively to Nigerian filmmakers was never the plan. I suppose I've subscribed to one of the greatest men's wise words. Kwame Nkrumah said Africa should be without borders. Hence opening entries to all countries on the mother continent," said Osigwe, adding that we need to create African stars and celebrate with palm wine.
Demonstrating her tenacious spirit, Osigwe forged ahead with the awards regardless of the fact that there were no corporate sponsors. Nor did she heed doomsayers who predicted that the awards would never take off.
"They said the awards would cost a lot of money, which is true, but any progressive story is never only about money," she said.
"I was fortunate to approach the visionary governor Goodluck Jonathan of the state of Bayelsa who immediately bought into the idea. The inaugural ceremony was extremely successful."
Intent on preserving an authentic African element, Osigwe attended film festivals in South Africa and Zanzibar.
"If we are single-minded , we could soon be on a par with places like Cape Town that host the yearly Sithengi Film Festival. Already we have witnessed a massive development boom in Bayelsa, which a few months ago did not even have a single hotel," Osigwe said, disclosing plans already at an advanced stage to open AMAA secretariats in South Africa, Egypt and Kenya.
Osigwe concedes that it has not been easy for her as a woman.
"Men in Africa still believe they are king but I have been happy to prove myself. I am not ashamed to use my brothers to kick firmly closed doors wide open for me," she says of her six respected businessman brothers.
The awards have been graced by famous faces such as Vivica Fox, Louis Gosset Jnr and Miriam Makeba, among others.