Big win for Nollywood with Actress Bessey Ikem at world music and independent film festival.
September 3, 2013 | 1 Comments
By Pandita Njoh Etta
Better late than never goes the popular saying and Actress Bessey Ikem has proved that right with a highly acclaimed performance in the hit movie American Mama and a recognition for her talent at the recent world music and independent film festival in Washington D.C . At the WMIFF festival , Bessey won the Best Actress award in a Feature Film in the DMV area . The award calls for more hard work says Bessey Ikem in a chat with PAV on her career, the movie American Mama,its upcoming premiere and the state of Nollywood.
We understand you got a big award at the recent world music and independent film festival, can you tell us more about it?
It was an honor to be nominated for the category of Best Actress in Feature Film in the DMV area. Especially, this being my first lead role in a film this was big for me. When I found out that I won, I was speechless and so excited! I truly felt a mixture of emotions when giving my acceptance speech.
Many people may not be familiar with the world music and independent film festival awards; may we get some insight into what it is all about or what it represents?
Yes, the World Music and Independent Film Festival is an IMDB-qualifying international film festival. It started in 2010 and it is held annually in Washington, DC. This film festival showcases achievements for international cinema artists and independent artists in music and film.
What were some highlights of the event and were then any other Africans who got awards?
For me, it was just exciting meeting other talented business people, musicians, directors, actors and actresses who are veterans in the industry. The opportunity I got to be able to network and gain insight from others was priceless. The other Africans that won an award are Binta Goudiaby – Best Supporting Actress In A Feature Film/Dmv And John Uche – Best Director In A Feature Film/African.
Your award came from the movie American Mama, can you walk us through the story line and situate its importance in the context of present day challenges?
As the movie opens, American Mama gets the news that her son Kenneth wants her to come and visit him in the United States. Her sister Nneoma, pretends to be happy for her, but she is green with envy. I soon arrive in the US and instantly start to give my son’s girlfriend a very hard time. Deep down inside I want Kenneth to marry an African girl, but the rest you will have to watch the movie to see what happens next! Overall, I believe that this movie communicates the message that in life you have to learn to accept and embrace the differences in other people and cultures. Its important to respect other cultures and at least be open try and learn new things in order to be comfortable in a different setting.
How long have you been in the movie industry and what pushed you into it?
I have always had a love and passion for the entertainment industry. Although my primary career is focused in business management, I continued to pursue my passion for acting, via self-studying. My debut on the big screen came as the result of a movie shot in the US titled Busted Life produced by Chima Empire. Then I featured in a Canadian movie titled Missing Link. After that, I was featured in Hunted by Love, which was shot in the US and a Cameroonian produced movie titled Victimized. Then I got my big break through in the industry, when I received my first lead role in this feature film American Mama produced by Lion Films Production here in the States.
What is your take on the Nollywood as a whole, there are complains despite the production of more movies the standards are dropping?
Not really, I think that Nollywood has come a long way from the early days, with better production equipment, camera shots, scenes and story lines, but there is always room for improvement. That goes for anything you do in life. The ultimate goal is to keep the viewers entertained and connect with them. As technology advances and becomes more accessible, I believe that you will see the positive changes in Nollywood as well.
Back to the movie American Mama, there are plans to screen the movie in MD, how is that evening going to look like and what will it take to be part of the event?
Yes, we plan to have the first movie premiere on Friday, September 6th, 2013 at Martins Camelot (13905 Central Ave. Upper Marlboro, MD 20774). Red carpet starts at 8pm , the screening will start at 9:30pm and tickets are $30 regular admission or $50 VIP. Tickets can be purchased at www.lionfilmsproduction.com or purchased at the door. The evening will be filled with laughter, fun and fashion, as we would like people to come dressed in black-tie or traditional clothing. This event will also be an amazing networking opportunity for people to mix and mingle with professionals in various industries.
What next after your big award, any big projects you are working on for the rest of the year?
Be on the look out for the sequel to American Mama!! I also do have a few other projects I’m working on, but as soon they are ready to be revealed to the public I will be sure to let you know!
When Nollywood Success Opens Doors to The Presidency
April 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
-Actress Binta Goudiaby Fetes achievements with President Yahya Jammeh and Gambians
By Ajong Mbapndah L
It was a most memorable trip says hard working Nollywood actress Binta Goudiaby upon her return from the Republic of Gambia where she was received by President Yahya Jammeh .Though born in Senegal, Binta’s mother hails from the Gambia and part of her childhood was actually spent there. Binta who won big at the 2012 Nollywood & African Film Critics‘(NAFCA) Awards in the USA proudly presented her trophy to President Jammeh. In the company of a delegation from NAFCA which was part of the trip, President Jammeh was presented with “Life Time Achievement,” award from NAFCA. It was not all about movies for Binta, as the work of her Djibonkete Foundation created to help women through education and entrepreneurship also occupied center stage. In an interview with PAV,Binta shares her trip and attempts to share more on Gambia.
Binta, may we understand why you were in Gambia; what took you there?
I was born in Senegal but I grew up equally between Gambia where my mother is from and Senegal. Also, I’m a humanitarian and an actress, so I was invited by the President to honor my NAFCA 2012 trophy for best actress of the year and to discuss the progress I am making with my Djibonkete foundation. But in the meantime, His Excellency President Yaya Jammeh was awarded the very prestigious “Life Time Achievement” NAFCA trophy by Nollywood. So, Nollywood delegates made the trip with me to Gambia, to hand the trophy in person to the president, during an official ceremony.
How familiar are people from Gambia with your work in Nollywood and how was the reception you received?
I received a warm welcome from the government and the friendly open minded people of Gambia. They are very happy people and they love their country. They know my work very well and love it. I am very proud of that.
So you were received by President Yahya Jammeh, how were you able to get the opportunity to meet with him?
He was the one who invited me and I really appreciate that. He has a great respect for everything that can help Africa make progress and move forward. I suppose that is what attracts him the most about my Djibonkete Foundation. It is a foundation that was established to empower women by mainly helping in their education, entrepreneurship and thereby financial independence. It also helps students from poor family backgrounds get a better education, amongst other things.
So what are some of the issues that you discussed with the President, any projects you shared with him and was he willing to support you?
We talked mostly about my trophy, my foundation and how it can help the country. He loves talking to people with ideas on how to make Africa a better place for its citizens. He is a big supporter of the movie industry and that in itself helps me and my foundation. NAFCA CEO, Dr. Victor Olatoye and I also discussed with the president about Nollywood, the movie Industry and the trophy he received.
Not much is known about President Jammeh of the Gambia, what kind of leader did he strike you as, was he easy to converse with, what impressions did you have generally after your meeting with him?
He is a very nice, kind and patient person. He was very easy to talk to and down to earth. He seems like a strong leader and I learned a lot from him.
Talking about Gambia, from the little that is out there, the perception is that it is ruled by a dictator, that there are limited freedoms, people cannot express themselves etc, what is it you found out about that country that people who have never been there may not know?
When I look at him, I don’t see a dictator. I see someone who loves his country and who is working hard to make it achieve the best development and reach the highest level in the world standards. Gambia is very peaceful. Everyone has a job, companies are run by the young and they are very successful, there is a lot of tourism and a low crime rate. The people are so wonderful and they get along so well with each other. The President may have a different approach to problem solving that some people may not agree with, but it seems like things are getting done.
You are more of a cultural and entertainment person, what kind of potential and opportunities did you see in the Gambia , be it tourism, investment or anything else?
There are many opportunities and the tourism industry is doing well and making investments into the country is always a good idea because that contributes to the growth of the country. Gambia is also a wonderful place to make more movies because the country is so beautiful and hospitable.
Besides meeting the President, what do you consider as some of the successes of your visit and what next after that, what should Gambians expect from you?
Meeting the President was part of that success and also a great honor. My presence in Gambia allowed me to think about what my next move should be but I’m still in the thinking process. However, I believe that Gambians should expect me to do my part to improve the movie industry and to spread knowledge about the culture.
With regards to your movie career, any other projects you are working on or have in mind?
We’re planning to shoot more movies in Gambia but I don’t want to spoil anything so you have to wait and see.
Binta, good luck in your ventures and thanks so much for talking to PAV
Thank you very much for having me here.
Africa’s Rising Top Model: Bertini Heumegni Surges on despite the Odds
March 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
It is very challenging for Africans in the competitive world of modeling but there is no turning back for Bertini Heumegni who has emerged as one of the most familiar faces on
the New York fashion circuit. Cultural differences, rejection at castings, and sometimes racism are some of the odds that weigh against aspiring models from Africa but Bertini has slowly but steadily weathered the storm and ranks about the most promising representation for the continent today.
Born in Cameroon and a father of two, Bertini says his first break came from a chance encounter as he was spotted while serving as a bouncer by an agent of the famous Sharon Mulligan Agency in Cape Town. Not shy about the humble beginnings, Bertini reminisces that one of his first booking jobs was with Sting Sunglasses in from Italy for the face of Africa in 1998.Today Bertini has a very impressive resume with a career that spans from Cameroon ,to South Africa, Italy, France, the USA and counting.
Bertini has featured in commercials and events for Fresca and Pure Smirnoff in South Africa as well as for Guinness, and the telecommunications giants MTN in Cameroon. He has participated at multiple fashion events including the Johannesburg fashion week, American Next Top Model, Cape Town fashion week, New York fashion week, Fashion on the Hudson, New York African fashion week, etc.Agencies which have used his services include Sharon Mulligan, Storm Model, Supermodels, Next Models all in South Africa, Paris Models in France, Ricardo Gay in Milan, Cosmo Models, Boss models, Icon Model in New York and Grace del Marco in Spain.
Upon completing acting and directing classes at the H&B Studios in New York, Bertini chronicled his exciting life adventures into a movie called The American Dream.With himself as the star and Helene Faussart the lead singer of the group Les Nubians as co-star, the movie is a cocktail of drugs, love, sex, and betrayal.
After fifteen years of slow and steady progress in the industry, Bertini has grown in confidence and ambition and a perfect illustration is the recent launching of his own underwear
line. Dubbed BH, initials for Bertini Heumegni, the model says the line is a fulfillment of a dream he was inspired with when Italian Associate Catherina Fiorillo suggested at a Milan Men collection event that his name will fit perfectly in the fashion industry. The response to the line has been awesome Bertini says as works towards launching the product across Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.
On what makes his line unique or why people should have a preference for it , Bertini in all confidence cites a number of reasons: The first underwear collection, with a 3 inch band, elastic straps adjusted to fit different categories of men, women could throw on in the night to seduce their husbands or boyfriends or in the morning after a night over and still look sensual, the waistband and leg holes are bonded to resist bunching,BH can be worn also to the beaches as swimwear, provides extra support and Stretching. As a model and fitness consultant Bertini says he has insight on what men like to wear and look good. The BH model he goes on has 90% cotton for comfort and slimming effect on the body, 10% spandex for extra support and stretching and 3 inches waistband and woven logo.
Asked if he had any words for aspiring models, Bertini recommends that they remain natural. What is perceived as a weakness may turn out to be your greatest asset. Who would have thought that my natural green eyes which made me a subject of taunts from bullies when growing up will eventually help elevate me to where I am today, Bertini quips. My cat eyes or hassle green eyes are now my strengths, no more my weakness .A lot of people make the mistake of sacrificing their African culture and roots Bertini says, but aspiring models from the continent should bear in mind that Africans are natural and exotic. The continent is full of talent he affirms and young people just have to believe in themselves, show dedication and patience, remain persistent in the face of unending challenges and success will eventually come.
On future initiatives, the New York based Bertini says besides promoting his BH line across the globe and especially in Africa with its huge market, he needs to honor modeling engagements while polishing up plans for a reality TV show that will be unveiled in the months ahead.
More on Bertini and the BH Line can be found at www.bertinih.com
Akon: Putting Africa first,Why I’m a changed man
March 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Isha Sesay and Jessica Ellis*
From the soundproofed walls and floor to the large sofas and keyboard racks, there’s only one prevailing color inside Akon’s state-of-the-art personal studio.
“It is all white,” says the multi-platinum selling artist, of the studio where he has recorded and produced several of his R&B and hip hop hits. “It helps me think a lot easier,” he adds. “This is my place of creation — I am self-engineered, I pretty much work everything in here myself.”
It’s also here where the Senegalese-American singer is putting the final touches to his fourth studio album, expected to be released in June, nearly 10 years after he first rose to fame with his 2004 debut offering “Trouble.”
Since then, Akon has sold millions of albums around the world and collaborated with countless pop and hip-hop icons such as Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dog and Eminem.
Along the way, he’s also stirred up controversy on several occasions, catching criticism for exploiting his criminal past, as well as for his sexually explicit lyrics and concert shenanigans.
Born in the United States to Senegalese parents, Akon, or Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam, spent his early years in the West African country.
“What I remember the most really was just running wild there,” he says. “Barefooted, swimming in dirty lakes, selling fruit, picking mango trees, hoping not to get caught because they don’t take kindly to thieves in Africa,” he adds, laughing.
At around the age of 8, Akon left the “jungle” of Senegal for the “concrete jungle” of New Jersey. Yet, the transition into his new environment wasn’t easy.
“Making friends was the hardest part,” says Akon of his school years in the United States. “I didn’t speak any English; it was a different culture, dressing different. I would get teased a lot — not playing the bully card — but I found myself always trying to find ways to fitting in. I was always fighting.”
Akon says that it was this reality, coupled with a desire “to be cool,” that sent him off the rails during his teenage years. Aged as young as 14, he was running with a bad crowd, involved in illegal activities including stealing cars — which led to a six-month jail stint.
Today, Akon says he feels “lucky” to have left that lifestyle behind him.
“The guys I came up with, none of them are here right now,” he says. “Four of them are dead, three are doing double life,” he adds. “It’s more of a bitter-sweet success story for me because I was the one that actually slipped away and its only because I made the decision to change my life over after that one experience.”
But it was this background that shaped Akon’s first steps in music. In 2004, he released his first single, “Locked Up,” to great success. Two years later, his second album, “Konvicted,” reached triple platinum with three million copies sold in the United States and more than five million worldwide by the end of 2007.
But despite “Konvicted’s” mega success, Akon says that period was a “confusing” time for him.
“All these records being broken and all the money made, you almost want to make yourself believe that you are invincible,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what I was becoming.”
During a notorious Akon concert in 2007, the singer threw a 15-year-old boy off the stage and onto a teenage girl who suffered a concussion. “I was charged for it — to this day, if I could have changed that, I wouldn’t have did it.”
During those days, Akon says, he let down Africa.
“I was the first to break it internationally, on that level, from Africa,” says the rapper. “Africa was really expecting me to represent them well and at that time I don’t think I was doing that.”
But that year also marked one of his most high-profile collaborations, working in the studio with Michael Jackson on a duet called “Hold My Hand.” Akon finished the vocals in 2009, after Jackson’s death, and the song became the first single released on the King of Pop’s posthumous album titled “Michael.”
“We snuck off to go to the movies, he had a disguise on,” says Akon, recalling his collaboration with Jackson. “It was me and his three kids and we were on the escalator and the people were like ‘Akon, oh my God, Akon,’ and I am signing autographs and laughing, thinking ‘you don’t even know who is beside me’ — the whole time, he is standing there laughing.”
Looking ahead, Akon says his goal is to give back to his continent. He’s set up Konfidence, a Senegalese foundation that’s working to build schools and hospitals in the country, he says.
“I have learned a lot along the way and I am glad that I never regretted enough because my past made who I am today,” he says. “Just do understand that the person you see today is not the one from yesterday.
“I am going to keep advancing, doing as much as I can, but I really want to make the biggest impact in Africa.”
* Source CNN
Afrobeats: The new sound of West Africa that’s going global
December 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Vladimir Duthiers and Teo Kermeliotis*
Step into any of the countless nightclubs in Lagos and you’re bound to find yourself immersed in a sonic journey of pulsating beats, groovy samples and hip-hop kicks.
In a megacity where everybody loves to dance, the tone is set by the infectious sounds of Afrobeats — a growing music movement that’s struck a chord with youth in West Africa and outside the continent.
Although its name sounds similar to Afrobeat — the eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary sounds pioneered by firebrand multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti — Afrobeats is a new genre on the Anglophone West African music scene.
Back in late 1960s, Kuti, one of Africa’s biggest music stars, used his electrifying grooves and sharp-tongued lyrics as a political vehicle to oppose Nigeria’s military governments
Afrobeats, however, tends to steer clear from politics. Its mission, says well-known Nigerian music promoter Cecil Hammond, is to make people forget their everyday troubles and have a good time
“Africa can be very stressful,” he explains. “So you need things to make you loosen up and make you happy — and music makes Nigerians happy.”
Hammond says that Nigerian music today has changed a lot since the days of Kuti, who died in August 1997.
“Nigerian artists don’t really want to get into politics,” says Hammond. “They tend to stay far away from it because at the end of the day, you have different political parties, you don’t want anyone to say you belong to this party or that party.
“The more neutral you are, the better — so just focusing your music, give us good music, let everybody dance and that’s it.”
Musically, however, the influence of Kuti is clearly evident on the new generation of Afrobeats artists.
DJ Abrantee, a UK-based Afrobeats champion, says the new sounds derive from Afrobeat, having evolved over the years with various Afrobeats musicians experimenting to suit their individual styles.
“[With] the inclusion of non-traditional instruments, electronic sounds, grooves, synths, hip-hop kicks, it has become more than just the one typical style of beat used in the 1970s,” he explains. “It is now an amalgamation of beats.”
But who are some of the hottest names making strides in the Afrobeats scene? Here, Abrantee picks five stars whose are breaking through commercially on the world stage.
“WizKid is without a shadow of doubt on the verge of a worldwide explosion,” declares Abrantee, who describes the Nigerian Afrobeats singer as a “young talented guy who not only sings but pens some of the most musically catchy hooks in that genre.” WizKid was recently signed by UK star Tinie Tempah’s management company.
The Nigerian rapper is at the forefront of the Afrobeats scene, having enjoyed big international success with “Oliver Twist,” a global hit that made it to the Top 10 in UK charts. Abrantee says “his music is infectious, fun, dynamic and appeals to the masses.” In recent years, D’Banj has won several prestigious awards, including the Best African Act at the 2012 MOBO Awards.
Nigerian May7ven is a UK-based Afrobeats artist and singer-songwriter who is well known for her dancing. “Her bold and catchy anthems in a predominately male-dominated industry have been leading the way and carrying the international flag for the ladies in Afrobeats,” says Abrantee.
The Ghanaian artist, also known as “the talking drum,” has had success with “The Thing,” a massive hit on dance floors in Africa and beyond. “The dexterity and distinctness of his soulful voice complements his records and puts him in a firm position to have a long lasting career,” says Abrantee.
R2Bees is a super group featuring Ghanaian artists Paedae and Mugeez, produced by Killbeats, who is responsible for some of the biggest hits coming out of the West African country. Abrantee says they are the “Afrobeats group to watch” in 2013, pointing to the anticipated release of their new single featuring UK star Tinchy Stryder.
* Source CNN Africa
Nollywood Heart throb Ramsey Nouah
December 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Obed Boafo*
The film industry in Africa is blessed with an abundance of talent. From Nigeria through to Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, the continent continues to produce quality actors and actresses. Year in year out, Africa’s impressive database of screen lords and goddesses increases with an appreciable level of quality, style and presentation.
So it is no wonder that Nollywood, Africa’s most successful movie industry (at least for now), is getting all the applause from across the divide of the filmmaking world. From very humble beginnings to its present state, Nollywood has stated its case as a global force to reckon with. In an impressive string of good results posted over the decade, the Nigerian film industry, despite its problems, is still leading the rest of the pack, in a clear unassailable manner that would take the rest of the continent to catch up.
Countries like Ghana, South Africa and Kenya are giving Nollywood a hot chase but given the fact that numerical advantage would always favour the Nigerian film industry, it makes it hard to even suggest or try to explain that, all others can or may catch up in terms of revenue flow. Nollywood will be around for a long time to come, and its key payers including the actors and actresses will ensure that.
Ramsey Adetokunbo Nouah is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most successful actors. To say that Nouah is a cult figure in Nigeria, would be stating the obvious, and to imply that he is one of Africa’s finest actors of all time, would echo the thoughts of many movie lovers across the continent. In the early 2000s when the Nigerian movie industry began making strategic inroads into other African countries, it was the likes of Nouah, Genevieve Nnaji, Liz Bension and Pete Edoche among others, who graced the screens.
Those days, it was pretty hard to come across a Nigerian movie without a certain Nouah. He constantly featured in almost all of the titles that were produced at the time, becoming a figure most young people would look up to. The respect and quantum of appreciation he earned from fans and industry players alike, aided his gradual growth to the top of what can be said to be, in all fairness, a career well lived.
And even though the film industry in Nigeria has gone through phases, accommodating other young hopeful, and carefully placing the likes of Ramsey in the backroom, he’s managed to go through all that unscathed, holding on to what he’s been known for over the years – quality. A career full of awards and accolades, the 39 year-old actor debuted on the local scene, with his appearance in the soap opera Fortunes.
Around 1990, a friend who had always dreamt of seeing Ramsey act, urged him on to try auditioning for a role in Fortunes. A year later, he found himself as one of key actors in the series. Fortunes, which later became Mega Fortunes, aired in 1993 on the Nigerian Television Authority, and to a larger extent, gave birth to what is currently referred to as Nigerian Home Videos.
ouah would later go on to achieve nationwide fame, as one script after the another from major film production houses poured in. As many as they came, Nouah made good use of them, proving the fine actor he is. Born in Edo, Nigeria to an Iranian/Israeli father and a Yoruba mother, Nouah has featured in over hundred Nigerian movies notable among them being Dangerous Twins, and The Figurine, which won him a, 2010, Best Actor in a Leading Role recognition at the African Movie Academy Awards.
*Source MSN Africa
Nollywood Driving Tourism To Nigeria
November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
The positive effect of Nollywood, as Nigeria’s booming film industry is widely known, on tourism to Nigeria was discussed at length this week, following the release of the World Travel Market (WTM) 2012 Industry Report and WTM Global Trends Report.
he report states that the popularity of Nollywood all over the continent (it names Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gambia) means ‘Nollywood films attracts domestic and regional African tourists to Nigeria, visiting film locations’.
The report goes on to predict a 3% rise in tourism to Nigeria in the next four years – claiming that in addition to leisure tourism drawn by the industry, the growing revenue generated by Nollywood will attract business travel
The report discusses the hotel boom in Nigeria’s capital city Lagos. This year Radisson Blu, Four Points by Sheraton and others opened in the city, while Hilton Worldwide, Accor, InterContinental Hotels Group and Protea all have hotels under construction or plan to break ground shortly.
According to This Day Segun Runsewe, Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, said: “The reports we are getting in the World Travel Market of 2012 becomes the sixth of its kind in the recent time. That means Nigeria is making major impact in terms tourism development.
He added: “To me, I want to be very grateful to the owners of these reports for seeing the real facts that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government has made concerted efforts to promote tourism development and I am happy that we are being recognised on the two reports.
“On the Nollywood, you know that Nigeria is the second in the world in terms of film production and that is why we have been very strong on entertainment tourism. So to me, all these reports is re-awakening call on us as a people to continue to put as much as we can in tourism development. If the world is now saying we have potentials, if the world said that there is something good that can come out of us what are we waiting for? It’s for us to protect and showcase that interest to the world that yes we can- we also can do it.”
*Source MSN Africa
Senegalese Star Binta Goudiaby Bags NAFCA Award
November 9, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Not content with the feat of been the first Senegalese to break into Nollywood,Binta Goudiaby has continued her rise to stardom with a big win at the recent Nollywood and African Film Critics (NAFCA) awards. The beauty who is so attached to her traditional says the award is not only a source of pride to her but all Senegalese people. Binta in a chat with PAV talks about her award, and projects that she has been working on.
Binta, we understand you recently won an award at NAFCA 2012, can you tell us more about the award?
Binta: Yes, indeed, I won the very prestigious NAFCA 2012 award of the best Nollywood actress of the year in the category “people’s choice.” Nollywood is one of the three giants of the world’s movie industry and the People’s Choice Award is one of the most competitive at NAFCA. As a matter of fact, this year, we were more than 50 nominees for that single award and I came first, amid the presence of very talented and experimented top actresses.
You were the first Senegalese to break into Nollywood and you are the first Senegalese to win an award , how do you feel about that and what has been the secret of your success?
Binta: I feel very proud and happy to represent my countrySenegal, especially the Senegalese women. The secret of my success is that, I would like to keep late Sembene Ousmane’s legacy. This is such a huge challenge, as Sembene Ousmane can be seen as the father of African cinema and he set the standards very high. So I work very hard in order to achieve that goal.
What was the reaction of the Senegalese people to your award?
Binta: They were very proud to see the first Senegalese to win the award for best actress in Nollywood. It was very moving to receive so many overwhelming messages from fans and calls from some Senegalese officials congratulating me.
This was the second year that NAFCA is having the awards, how was NAFCA 2012, compared to NAFCA 2011 when it started?
Binta: I was an award presenter at NAFCA 2011 awards and I can tell you that it was already a great success for its first year. But from what I have seen this year, I think that it is definitely getting better each year and will sure continue to improve.
A few months back you were inSenegalwhere you were received by Minister of Culture Yousour Ndour, what was the purpose of your trip and what was the outcome?
Binta: On the one hand, I had to meet several officials and personalities in charge of culture and especially cinema related policy in order to present my work, my projects for the country, to talk about Nollywood and my NAFCA nomination, amongst other subjects. The meeting with Minister Youssou Ndour was very rich and promising, indeed. I have realized that we have the same aim as regards developing the country’s culture. We have kept in touch since then and I am confident about the future. The fans had been working very hard for me to win the award, so I owed them a visit as well. On other hand, like each year, I took supplies to my women’s foundations and to give an award to the best students of the year in the different villages inSenegal. It was also an opportunity for me to see what else I can do to better represent the Senegalese women here in theUnited States as a representative of culture. I was received very well and I was just very happy to be there.
How is the film industry doing inSenegaland any recommendations on how to make it better?
Binta: From what I see, the industry is getting better. We were among the first Africans in the movie industry and it went down for several reasons, but now it is coming back stronger. I don’t really have any recommendations but if everyone stays positive and works hard, I think we will be very competitive in terms of quality of films in the rest of the world.
Still on the film industry inAfrica, you have been in Nollywood for several years now, how will you describe the industry, what works there and what needs to be fixed?
Binta: I think it is great the way it is. I would like them to keep it Africanized because that is the reason why people want to see our films. We have a lot to offer to the world and it is good to bring that difference inherited from our culture and ancestors, as our contribution to building the world’s multicultural movie industry.
Who are some of the favourite actors and actresses that you have worked with in the cause of your
Binta: I love working with Emmanuelle Mensa and Best David but all the actors I have worked with are great and very talented.
What are some of the major movies and projects you have worked on in the cause of the year?
Binta: The biggest movie I have worked on this year is American Mama directed by the best director Obed Joe. It was very fun and exciting
So what next for Binta after the NAFCA award?
Binta: I have a contract for a movie inVancouver and 2 other big movie projects with Obed Joe.
Power of Music Part 3: Emmanuel Jal And The Business Of Peace Music
November 9, 2012 | 0 Comments
“I had record labels wanting me to change my style, they wanted me to be more ‘hard,’” he says. “I was being told, ‘You’re soft, you’re not like a real soldier.’”
The executives dispensing that advice had no idea how wrong they were—Jal has been fighting all his life. He grew up in what is now the independent nation ofSouth Sudan, a region that lost roughly one-fifth of its population in a civil war that split the country in two and continues to reverberate today. And at the age of seven, after his mother was killed by government forces, he was sent to a training camp to become a child soldier.
Jal’s story represents one of the more heart-wrenching and improbable paths to a happy and fulfilling life, let alone international fame as a musician. Now 32, he has just released his fifth studio album, See Me Mama, on his own Universal-distributed label. Combined with a healthy dose of live performances, a memoir and a documentary about his life, music has given him not only a voice but a financially viable career that enables Jal to take care of himself and others
On a recent visit to the Forbes headquarters inNew York(see video of the interview below), Jal compared his relationship with music to an airplane’s interaction with air pressure: the level inside must match the level outside.
“What music does to me, it helps me balance my inner pressure so that I can deal with the forces outside that are trying to pressure me,” he says. “And it makes me tell the story in a way that it doesn’t hurt me.”
That story began in South Sudan, where he spent his childhood fighting in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, rebelling against government forces sent in from Khartoum (still the capital of Sudan, where Omar Al-Bashir remains president despite the At age 11, Jal and a handful of other child soldiers broke from the main fighting force, escaping from the city of Juba to a town called Waat. There, Jal met British aid worker Emma McCune, who adopted him and arranged for him to attend school inNairobi. After McCune died in an accident shortly thereafter, he was left to fend for himself inKenya, haunted by memories of his homeland.
“Thinking about the moments when we were walking in the jungle,” Jal recalls. “Or the times when I was tempted to eat my friend because we had no food.”
In the streets of Nairobi, though, Jal found comfort in music. Combining the influence of American hip-hop and African rhythms, he developed his own reggae-tinged, peace-promoting sound. And he soon found that his message was catching on. In 2004 he independently released his first album, Gua, which means “peace” in the South Sudanese language of Nuer and “power” in the brand of Arabic spoken in the region. The title track topped Kenyan charts.
It wasn’t until the following year at the Live 8 concert inCornwall,United Kingdom, that he realized he could make a living as a musician. Performing to a crowd of 5,000 people alongside celebrated artists like Peter Gabriel, it suddenly seemed anything might be possible.
“It was like I was floating in the air,” he remembers. “There were promoters so I was booked for another tour. … From $300 [per show], now you’re being paid 1,000 pounds, 2,000 pounds, and I said, ‘Wow.’ From there I was able to take care of my family, rent a place for myself, establish my charity Gua Africa.”
Though he doesn’t earn as much as the politically-minded Lupe Fiasco, whom I profiled in the second installment of this three-part Power Of Music series, Jal has similarly been able to make a living as a musician while generally resisting pressure to “sell out.” And like Fiasco, he may actually benefit from the distinction of being a “conscious rapper” because it sets him apart.
“[The record label executives’] advice was, ‘Sex and violence sells more than just singing about peace and being lovey-dovey, and so it doesn’t give you street cred,’” says Jal. “But when you look at it, artists are influenced by the system nowadays. Because … if you play more conscious music, then you’re going to raise a more tough generation that will ask questions.”
That impulse has continued to put him in harm’s way. On a recent trip toSouth Sudanto play at a peace concert with hip-hop legend DMC, Jal was beaten by police before being rescued by forces who recognized him as a musician.
For that and other reasons, Jal feels he almost has no choice but to forge ahead.
“I still have nightmares of dead comrades, a long time ago, talking to me,” he says. “’Emmanuel, don’t forget about us, don’t give up, keep telling our story.’ … So it was no longer about me telling my story. It was about telling the story of those people.”
See the full videos of my interview with Emmanuel Jal below. This is the third part in my three-part Power of Music series, which looks at examples of music making a difference in the world. For more, follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Oluchi’s World: Modeling And More!
November 2, 2012 | 3 Comments
By Obed Boafo*
Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi makes modeling look so easy. One of the few black models to have hit the global limelight, Oluchi has seen her career grow from good to better to perfect.Her success story makes an interesting read, and the kind you would want to revisit over and over
14 years ago, when she auditioned and won the Face of Africa modeling contest, it was a kind of breakthrough that shot her from obscurity to stardom.
Oluchi winning the Face of Africa contest was special in so many ways. It was the first-ever model competition that covered the whole continent. It was organized by the South African channel M-Net in collaboration with Elite Model Management.
She was seventeen years old at the time and didn’t know zilch about the path she was creating. A three-year modeling contract with renowned modeling agency Elite Modeling Management worked the magic of what would go on to become a beautiful story.
It was not until after she had won that the reality that she has arrived, dawned on her.
The successes that have since followed her triumph on that platform have been extremely refreshing.
She has a long list of clients she has and continues to do work for including Victoria’s Secret, Gianfranco Ferré, Gap, Express, John Galliano, Christian Dior, Costume National, Chanel, and Giorgio Armani, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. Oluchi has also worked with very professional photographers such as Steven Meisel, Nick Knight, and Patrick Demarchelier.
She has graced covers of well known publications like Vogue, i-D, ELLE, Untold, and Surface; and has featured in campaigns for Nylon, Marie Claire, and Allure.
One of Oluchi’s most talked-about modeling feats so far is her featuring in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for four straight years from 2005 to 2008.
Oluchi playfully describes herself as an African Fashion mini goddess, a speechless actress, timeless clothes hanger, a game changer, an entrepreneur and a global individual.
The journey to the top of a successful modeling career, just like most of her peers, was challenging. But she scaled through with a great deal of perseverance and dedication to what she loves doing most – modeling.
A successful career woman, she is the brain behind of OModel Africa, a South African-based agency with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town that focuses on “discovering, developing and delivering a select portfolio of African models to our South African and international clients for catwalk shows, TV commercials, editorials, advertising, feature films and below the line work”.
Through constant “media exposure in interviews, TV appearances and special appearances at events throughout Africa, and through constant contact with clients around the continent,” Oluchi’s OModel are able to position their models for growth.
Ghanaian model Kate Tachie-Menson, 2008 winner of M-Net Face of Africa is one of the models who have had the OModel experience.
Oluchi is married to Italian fashion designer Luca Orlandi.
You can follow Oluchi on Twitter: @OLUCHI
Jim Iyke To Star In New Reality Series
November 2, 2012 | 0 Comments
Iyke, the star of over 150 Nollywood movies, often finds himself in the news and gossip columns for his contentious romantic entanglements. Jim Iyke Unscripted is a joint production from African Magic and Oh Africa TV worth a reported $1.5million. The show is expected to air for a year and will cover all aspects of the star’s life.
Iyke was born in Libreville Gabon in 1976, the youngest child with six older sisters, before his family moved to Engugu Agidi in Andambra, Nigeria.
He worked in banking before deciding to pursue a career in Nollywood in 2001. He is most often cast in playboy roles, and has often been cast opposite Rita Dominic. Jim is the force behind clothing label Untamed Closet, which has boutiques in Lagos, Abuja and The Gambia.
Iyke has won several awards in his 11-year career, including three teenage choice awards, a best actor Nigerian Entertainment award, African Hollywood award, African Achievement award a best African actor at the NET awards held in New York last year and also the Best Actor of the year at the Mode Men Award ceremony in 2010.
Jim established a charitable foundation The Jim lyke Foundation for Children with special Disabilities. A biography of the foundation on its website reads: “The Jim lyke Foundation is a non-governmental, non-religious and non-political organization comprising of persons who are engaged in the advancement of the protection of rights and welfare of children with various deformities. This project is necessitated by the flagrant neglect and abuses of the rights of children born with deformities in Nigeria.”
Iyke’s many fans around the globe will be able to see more of Nollywood’s busiest playboy as the show is set to be syndicated on channels around the globe.
Genevieve Nnaji: Africa’s Screen Idol!
September 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Obed Boafo*
Despite Nigeria’s towering, social and economic challenges such as crime and chronic corruption, it has so far done a good job of keeping the continent entertained, in what could have possibly been an African society without fun, and thrill.
“Nigerians know how to throw a good party,” is the usual line you get from some of its people when you attempt a debate on who among Africa’s 54-state, is a grand “party maker”. With time, this assertion has become an established self-belief most hold on to – quite proudly – even though a tiny minority doesn’t want to be tagged, or come across as profligate.
Entertainment, a minor but crucial source of economic livelihood for thousands of Africa’s citizens – is on a grand take off, gradually beating off competition from attractive “professional jobs”
Few years ago, ten out of twelve African graduates settled for “white collar” jobs but that has changed. With time, Africa’s young and creative heads are shifting away from what used to be the conventional order, and challenging themselves with initiatives that had little or no appreciation a decade ago.
In a quick yet steady growth to the top, Nigeria’s entertainment industry has grown into a modern day screamer. The successes chalked over the years are as assuring as the quantum of revenue raked in by its subjects yearly.
Filmmaking, one of the country’s strategic units of economic growth continue to take an upward fine-tuning – putting food on the table of millions of households.
Not only has Nigeria’s entertainment industry fed its own people; across Africa, their homemade movies, is a major source of employment to hundreds of entrepreneurs.
Thanks to an early positioning, it has grown to become a force that cannot be done away with. Today, the Nigerian film industry, widely known as “Nollywood”, is the second largest in the world by volume.
Genevieve Nnaji, one of the early day saints who got this whole craze off to a start, is about the industry’s most respected and appreciated female act. Across Africa and even in more rooted and hard-to-break-through territories like the United States of America and Europe, the level of appreciation that greets her, is refreshingly awesome.
Nnaji, who at an early stage in her acting career defined what would later go on to be accepted as polished drama, took the industry by storm about two decades ago, when nobody really paid attention.
Gradually taking up roles in low and virtually non-existent budget movies, it was just a matter of time that she would explode into the big material that she is made of today. Role after the other, she proved her worth and managed to catch the eye of some notable producers who gave her subsequent roles in Unbreakable, Dangerous Sister, Not Man Enough, and Church Business among other titles.
Still a local idol after few scripts, it was the 2002 movie “Sharon Stone”, which got her a wider appeal – making her an instant hit in countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, and Kenya among other African countries.
And the widespread recognition came at a time when Nollywood had made a successful crossover into unfamiliar territories and was getting a lot of positive reviews.
Soon, she blew up. She’s been splendid thus far.
Nnaji, 33, (May 3, 1979), who was brought up in a middle-class environment in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, earned her first screen appearance in the television series “Ripples” as a teen actress.
A few television commercials also followed. She made her debut mainstream screen appearance at the age of 19 in the movie “Most Wanted”.
Her subsequent movies included “Last Party”, “Mark of the Beast”, and “Ijele”, which till date, remains one of her all-time classics
A multiple award winner at home and abroad, Nnaji is one of Nigeria’s most decorated celebrities in terms of brand endorsements, defending and projecting everything from cars, and toiletries. In June this year, she became a Range Rover Evoque Ambassador.
In 2009, she became the first Nigerian actress to be profiled on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
This, together with other achievements, has translated into exciting deals for her, as she continues to act in very challenging and well-packaged movies that has shot her stock up.
Tango with Me, (believed to have been shot on a 326,000-pound budget), is the latest of high quality movies she’s recently starred in.
Directed by Mahmood Ali-Balogun , industry stakeholders expect that the melodrama would achieve commercial success and would go beyond just the usual and conventional VCD and DVD-driven distribution channel, and opt for an aggressive roll out plan that would encourage appearance at film festivals, cinema releases and viewing openings that has the potential of bringing in watchers who aren’t necessarily Nigerians or Africans
Nnaji, a mother of one, also acted and excelled in The Mirror Boy; a film that tells the “uplifting story of a young teenage African British boy who is taken back to the land of his mother’s birth, but then gets mysteriously lost in a foreboding forest; and embarks on a magical journey that teaches him about himself and the mystery of the father he has never seen”.
Shot in The Gambia and England, the well-packaged fantasy adventure drama, written and directed by Obi Emelonye, received three nominations at last year’s African Movie Academy Awards.
It is fair to credit Nnaji for taking Nollywood to greater heights but part of that praise should also go to the industry for creating the platform for young and talented people, to nurture their talents.
But does the Nigerian film industry hold a lot of promise such that the likes of Nnaji can continue to have a cushion they can always lean on for growth and skills enhancement?
Phil Hoad of the Guardian thinks there is hope for the future. In an August 21, 2012, blog he suggested that:
“There’s certainly plenty of other evidence to suggest that it is moving on to a more established, professional footing: more film-makers shooting on film, not video; an increasing degree of international crossovers, like Jeta Amata’s Hollywood star-laden Niger-delta thriller Black November, Holly-Nolly co-production Doctor Bello, and the forthcoming Nigerian-UK adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun; the slick looking streaming-video library iROKOtv – supported by US money – giving ready access to Nollywood’s bottomless bargain-bin of titles”.
*Culled from http://african.howzit.msn.com