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From Oscars, pure gold for Genevieve Nnaji, Akin Omotoso, Cynthia Erivo

By Shaibu Husseini
04 July 2020   |   4:15 am
There is good news from the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) commonly called the Oscars. The Academy has extended invitation to three notable motion picture practitioners...


There is good news from the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) commonly called the Oscars. The Academy has extended invitation to three notable motion picture practitioners of Nigerian descent to be part of the Academy, which includes being a major part of deciding nominees and winners of the Oscars.

One of Nigeria’s best known actress, producer and later day director Genevieve Nnaji and Nigerian born but South African based filmmaker Akin Omotoso are among the 819 artistes and executives from 68 countries that have been invited to join the AMPAS. Genevieve, producer and director of the hit movie Lion Heart was invited to join the acting branch, while Omotoso, who is best known for helming internationally acclaimed productions such as Vaya, was invited to join the directors branch of the Academy, which has other branches such as Cinematography, Documentary filmmaking and production design.

Also invited this year is British actress and singer Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo. Cynthia has been nominated twice for the Academy awards and has received the Tony Awards for Best lead actress in a musical. Genevieve, Omotoso and Erivo will join fellow compatriots, actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Nigerian born British actress Wunmi Mosaku, filmmaker Femi Odugbemi, British-Nigerian film director Ngozi Onwurah and veteran filmmaker Tunde Kelani, who were appointed Academy members in 2019.

The appointment of filmmakers around the world started in 2015 and it followed the determination of the Academy to swell and double the number of women and people of colour in its membership by 2020. In 2019, the Academy invited 842 new members including Tunde Kelani swelling its ranks since 2015 from 6,446 to 8594 voters. With this invitation of 819 members, the Academy would have met its 2020 goal of seeking eligible women and people of color to become Academy members of the prestigious award, which has set a new award season calendar with the decision of the Academy organisers to move the telecast of the 92nd edition of the award from February 28 to April 25, 2021.

Celebrity salutes Genevieve, Omotoso and Cynthia whose membership of the Academy represents a new career height and recognition of their immense talent and outstanding abilities as motion picture practitioners.

Genevieve Nnaji, MFR
It is now becoming new heights every other year for screen diva Genevieve Nnaji. From the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) premiere for her debut film as a director Lion Heart in 2018 to the acquisition of the well helmed movie by the streaming giant, which made it the first Nollywood film to earn the acquisition status with Netflix, Genny, as the recipient of the national honour of Member of Federal Republic (MFR) is simply called, has been moving from grace to grace.

The beloved screen diva with a shinning career just recorded a new apex in her career as a filmmaker with her invitation into the Academy class of 2020. Industry analyst say that being invited to be a member of the Academy is the highest honour the film industry has to offer. In fact it is described as the film equivalent of getting knighted.

A native of Umuebi-Amuzu in Aboh- Mbaise Local Council of Imo State has had it good as an entertainer since she joined the industry a little near two decades ago. She is amongst the very few talents, who are under 40 and who have been so lucky as to hit the top spot so effortlessly. In fact Genny, as most industry observers would agree, have been lucky to be overwhelmingly accepted especially by a movie crowd that rarely celebrates an act for a long time. At under 40, Genevieve is already a mega star. Her stars have continued to be on the rise and it does seem that she is on the road to even greater heights.

Described at a recent international movie event as ‘Nigeria’s Genevieve’ and our answer to the Hollywood star Halle Berry, Nnaji is undoubtedly one of the most popular acting figures in Nollywood. She is one huge screen favourite and an actress that has drawn admiration from within and outside the continent. The recipient of the Best Actress award of the 2005 edition of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) is equally among the very few Nigerian home movie stars who enjoy red carpet reception wherever she goes.

From her debut role as an extra or what industry players call ‘waka pass’ in Ralph Nwadike’s Most Wanted as directed by Tunji Bamishigbin, Genny star of countless movie productions including 30 days, Above Death, Agony, Camouflage, Agbako and Late Marriage, naturally found a place in the A-list of actors featuring in nearly all the major movies. Indeed since then Genny has not looked back.


Akin Omotoso
Nigeria-born, but South Africa-based award winning actor, writer and director Akin Omotoso is on the list of filmmakers invited into the class of 2020 of AMPAS. An elated Omotoso took to his social media handle to affirm his membership of the Academy. He wrote: “I am beyond honoured to be part of The Academy class of 2020.”

Born in Nigeria and raised in Ife, Osun State, Omotoso is son of the literary giant Professor Kole Omotoso. A product of speech and drama of the University of the Western Cape, Omotoso who is known for helming critically acclaimed movies including Man on Ground, Vaya, Tell Me Sweet Something and A Hotel Called Memory, started his filmmaking career as an actor and later as a short filmmaker. The Kiss of Milk, The Nightwalkers and The Caretaker are the shorts he made between 1995 when he left school and 1999 when he wrote his full-length feature God is African.

A busy filmmaker and a multi Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) and Dubai International Film Festival award winner, Omotoso directed the popular MNET television series Jacob’s Cross and the director of Temple Production hit movie The Ghost and The House of Truth starring Kate Henshaw has been named as director of the proposed Netflix first Nigerian original.


Cynthia Erivo
Born Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo to Nigerian parents in Stockwell, South London, the multi-award winning actress, singer and songwriter is on the Academy class of 2020. A product of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Cynthia is not new to accolades and recognitions. She has been nominated twice for the Academy awards (Best Actress and Best Original Song) for her portrayal of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the 2019 biopic Harriet and she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre album among other awards and accolades. Productions that have had the benefit of her expert portrayal include notable British television series Chewing Gum, the Broadway show The Colour Purple, which won her the Tony Award and the 2018 thriller Bad Times at the El-Royale.