From the 17th edition of the annual African film Awards

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The 17th edition of the annual African film Awards holds tomorrow at the Old Stratford Town Hall in London. Mike Abiola, the CEO of African Voice Newspaper, London and the brain behind the annual Afro-Hollywood Awards speaks with Rotimi Ige on his experience so far and why a lot still needs to be done about Nigerian movies. Excerpts;

Since the first Afro Hollywood Awards in London, can you say the mission of the organisers has been accomplished, given recent developments in Nigeria's movie industry?

One of the goals of Afro Hollywood as an organisation, from the inception of the awards in the UK, was to contribute to the global growth of film and arts in Nigeria by giving international exposure to the talents that abounds in the industry.

The Afro Hollywood Awards have served to promote and advance the dynamic growth of African film and arts in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. With the popularity of Nollywood in the world currently, it would not be immodest to claim that Afro Hollywood has played a significant role. The organisation has played a pioneering role in promoting Nigeria s film industry and its practitioners in Europe.

How much do you think the Awards have impacted on the industry?

Since 1996, when the maiden event was hosted in the UK, the Afro Hollywood Awards, which we have now rechristened African Film Awards, has unarguably remained the most prestigious recognition of the African film industry.

To the industry practitioners receiving awards, it is a true reflection of hard work, dedication and exceptional performance among Nigerians and other African artistes. Over 80 per cent of the recipients have ended up as ambassadors of corporate brands and over 10 per cent have earned international roles; while some 5 per cent have found family commitment in Europe.

Recently, movies shot in Nigeria have been premiered and shown in London cinemas. Is there really a market for sales and distribution of Nigerian films in UK?

Films, like music, have no market boundary. A good movie will succeed anywhere in the world, if made professionally and backed with an adequate marketing budget.

Recently, Tango With Me by Mahmud Balogun opened in cinemas around the United Kingdom and is on target to make good box office returns. The UK is the biggest foreign market for Nigerian films.

If Nigeria had an astute government agency, Nollywood would by now be earning more foreign exchange for Nigeria. People talk about Nollywood being the greatest Nigerian export today but agencies like the NFVCB have not tried hard enough to promote Nigerian films or support the international distribution of films made in Nigeria.

Few Nigerian actors who were born or reside in Britain have participated in movies shot in Nigeria; what are the prospects in having actors from the mainstream British film industry in Nigerian movies?

Collaboration work between British- Nigerian producers and actors from both countries has great potential.

This has started happening with the recently concluded film based on Chimamanda Adichie s Half of a Yellow Sun. More will happen in the very near future as the industry continues to grow.

International producers are monitoring developments in Nollywood and, once the right framework is in place, more cross country production will happen.

Recently, state governments in Nigeria are showing more interest in hosting the nominees' night for Afro Hollywood, what does this portend for the industry?

Afro Hollywood Awards has served very well as an effective platform for companies seeking to deepen relations and gain greater exposure for their products with British Africans and friends of Africans. So any Nigerian state with genuine interest in promoting its tourism can leverage the global acceptance of Nollywood and the popularity of Afro Hollywood to market the state as a tourist destination.

The Government of the State of Osun, under the dynamic leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, played a pioneering role when the state's Ministry of Tourism & Culture hosted the official Nomination Awards last October. Nigerian recipients of African Film Awards visited the famous Erin-Ijesha Waterfalls and recorded a documentary for International broadcast.

There seem to be different awards for the industry springing up abroad, especially in the UK. Do you think this will help achieve the much desired growth in the industry?

Many copycat awards have sprung up all over Europe and America since the inauguration and many successes of the Afro Hollywood Awards in the UK. One organisation even went as far as far as naming theirs  Afro Hollywood Awards in America  without clearance from the original copyright owners.

Many of them have not been consistent and some have fallen by the wayside. Obviously, those without a genuine purpose or original ideas will not last long. But additional awards with a genuine purpose will help the growth of the film industry.

What do you think has kept Afro Hollywood going as the recognised flagship awards event outside Nigeria?

The African Film Awards event or Afro Hollywood Awards as it was formerly known, has grown due to its credibility and reputation over the years for delivering on what it promises to its ever growing audience of film and arts enthusiasts.

At a time when many did not recognise the potential of the film industry in Nigeria at the beginning in 1992, Afro Hollywood started a magazine dedicated to what has become known as Nollywood.

Nigerian Videos was first published in 1993 and gave birth to the Awards in 1996.

What are your expectations for the next Awards coming up in November?

The 17th annual African Film Awards, which will be celebrating excellence in Nollywood and the best of African cinema, will be held in London on Saturday, November 3, at the historic Old Stratford Town Hall.

It is expected to be the largest gathering of influential British Africans yet.

The awards event usually attracts high net worth British Africans with an interest in encouraging the growth of Africa s film industry.