The biggest Nigerian Movie; “Flower Girl” goes international

Flower Girl  is a 2013 Nigerian romantic comedy
film set in Lagos, Nigeria , released on 13 February 2013.
The script was written by Jigi Bello. It was produced and
directed by Michelle Bello,  who also produced and
directed the AMAA award-winning film Small Boy in
2009. The film stars Damilola Adegbite, Chris Attoh, Chuks
Chukwujekwu, Eku Edewor, and Bikiya Graham- Dougla
The movie, was first premiered From Lagos then,  in Enugu and sold out so was also the version in Ghana. Right now it seems the acceptance of the romance comedy film is not restricted to Nigeria and Ghana alone as the movie has taken on a life of its own. The UK has also opened its doors to Flower Girl and it’s scheduled to hit the screens all over UK on October 4th. The award winning producer spoke to Showtime Celebrity on this exciting experience and how she has fared since the first premier in Lagos.

How has it been since the premiere of your movie, “Flower Girl” in Lagos?

That is a very loaded question. A lot has happened since then. I’m just so thankful. It’s been an incredible experience right from the beginning of developing Flower Girl to seeing it premier on the day before St. Valentine’s Day and repeat nation wide on St Valentine’s Day. So, I just give all glory to God. I am a firm believer that I won’t be here if I didn’t have God directing me each stage in the entire journey. The cast and I had no idea the response that we would have when the film is finally released and even when they saw themselves on the big screen. They loved it and response was fantastic and so overwhelming that they hit number one on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing experience. Then in April, we were in Ghana for the premiere. I didn’t know what to expect because nobody knew me there. But Dami has a huge fan base there. And they know Chris as one of their biggest stars there. We had over 50 press guys, the hall was filled to the brim, we had to book another hall afterwards and it also sold out. The fans were there, the red carpet was fantastic. We were so overwhelmed and the reviews were good. The people were warm and friendly.

Now that you’ve premiered the film in Nigeria and Ghana, where is the next destination?

The UK! It’s time to go international. “Flower Girl” has a UK release, distributed by Talking Drums entertainment. We are just so thankful because it’s very hard to get an international release. It’s a very small percentage of films that do so in the world let alone, an African film and a Nigerian one at that. So, I just thank God. When we got the news I was just so excited.

How did this new door open?

It’s all by the grace of God. It all started when I went to Cannes Film Festival. I heard about this distribution company called Talking Drum entertainment. I had contacted them before I shot the film saying I’d be interested in coming to the UK with my film. So, I sent it to them, had a meeting with them and they just believed in the movie and that the project had a wide market there because there are very few Nigerian films that had been screened there-Mirror Boy which is still the biggest one, Anchor Baby, and Tango With Me which came out last year. After Cannes festival and a meeting with them in England, I still had to decide if this was the direction I wanted go. I prayed a lot and weighed my options because it was a very big decision to make. After a while, I just left it in God’s hands and decided to go on and do the international release.

What does this entail in monetary terms?

It entails a lot of money (laughs). It entails having to do a re edit of the whole movie and this has been done by Mahmud Ali Balogun and it looks amazing. There were some changes made because every market is different. What they want to see in the UK may not be what they want to see in the USA. So it definitely made the movie shorter and faster. Mr Mahmud Ali Balogun took it over, really fleshed out some of the scenes. And watching it now, it’s another experience altogether. Many more versions will come later on as the market opens. So there’s going to be different versions of the film. But I’m really very happy with this UK version and I’m just excited to see what the audience reaction will be when they finally see the movie.

When will this be?

The premier took pace on last Thursday and the release will be on the 4th of October across the UK.

And how are the members of the cast reacting to this open door?

They are all very excited about it. Damilola and Chris have crossed over with their work already. For Chucks, it’s going to be his first time.

When you set out to do this film, did you envisage it was going to be this big?

For me, it was about the story, about love and about getting to know what real love is. Just looking at the heart felt reaction of people in the audience just made the whole thing worth it. When Flower Girl was screened in Enugu, Blossom was there and he walked out of the cinema and he now saw a couple and the guy went down on his knees and proposed to his girlfriend right after watching Flower Girl. It just made everything worth it. For me, touching people’s lives in a positive way and helping them have a rethink on certain issues is what I want to do as a film maker. And this one is about love.

What do you look forward to now?

I look forward to the future. I don’t know what is going to happen next but the next for us will be the USA after the UK which is a huge market that hasn’t been well conquered yet. It’s a very huge market, very tricky and you have everyone spread out in different cities. But we are looking at different strategies to have Flower Girl being screened out there. So, we are just praying that that will happen for us.

Having had your film accepted, what are some of the things that the international buyers look out for in films?

I think for me the biggest factor is prayer. I am so serious. Before I did the casting, I had no idea what to expect. I prayed so much and asked the Lord to send the right people. On the first day of the audition, all the people who came blew me away. I was shocked. They all had a range of experiences, some had been trained abroad, some had never been trained, some were known stars, some were unknown. It was a whole mixture of people. I had no idea what to expect and having studied abroad, I had very high standard. So praying and leaving everything in God’s hands helped.

Having said that, nowadays, with available equipment and super cameras coming out, there really is no excuse. It really has to be high quality production. If you have low quality, they are not going to accept it no matter how good you’ve been or how big you are. If it’s not quality that can go internationally, they are not going to accept. So I think universal story, good quality production and also a film has to have commercial success. When I did Small Boy, I knew it wasn’t a commercial film. So this time around, I wanted to do a commercial film, something main stream that could be shown in theatres instead of DVD. When you do a film like Flower Girl that is such a commercial success, expectation soars and people want more.

What plans do you have to start work on a new one?

When I did Small Boy and won the award, people kept asking me what next? I felt pressured back then but look how long it took me to develop Flower Girl. I hope it’s not going to take that long to do the next one. But it does take time, a lot of preparation goes into it but I am already developing the next film.

What is it going to be about this time?

It’s going to be an action thriller. That is in development right now. When it’s ready you’d know.

What next after UK?

We just got an exciting news that flower girl is officially being accepted into the Hollywood Black Film Festival in Los Angeles, one of the top black film festivals in the USA. We just got the news and we are all so very happy. It’s going to be screened in October around the time the London one will take place. So everything is just happening from back to back

It’s a big festival and a lot of people especially Hollywood stars are going to be there. Funny enough, I went to that festival some years ago for a seminar now I am going back with a film. It’s incredible

PLOT

Kemi works in her parents’ flower shop and she dreams of
becoming one of the happy married couples she sees every
day. Her long time lawyer boyfriend Umar has promised to
marry her when he gets a promotion, but she is growing
impatient. Still living with her embarrassing parents, she
spends her nights in her room, planning the wedding she
hopes to have someday. Then comes the day that she has
been waiting for; Umar has got the promotion! However,
when she arrives expecting a big proposal, he breaks up
with her instead. Devastated, she goes on a delivery and
unable to see where she is going through tears of grief, she
gets hit by a car. The driver turns out to be Tunde Kulani,
the famous Nollywood movie star.
While Tunde tends to her wounds, Kemi breaks down and
tells him about her dilemma. Tunde offers to help her get
Umar to propose. They devise a plan. They will pretend to
be a couple to make Umar jealous and get him back
proposing on his knees.

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