Nollywood star, Rita Dominic, has explained why the release of ‘La Femme Anjola,’ the buzzy crime thriller directed by Mildred Okwo and which she stars ,comes about five years after its production commenced.
The movie which stars, Nonso Bassey, in the lead role, will launch locally in theatres nationwide on March 19, 2021.
According to her, the movie was originally billed for release in 2020 but was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘‘With the funding secured in March 2019 from Lagos-based GTI Securities as well as other private investors we finished up production in time for a 2020 release only for the rollout to be interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ she said.
The 45-year-old actress revealed this during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES at the media screening of the movie on Thursday.
The movie was shot on a tight budget according to the producers who said the movie already had to wait at least five years for financial reasons.
“It was filmed for twenty-five days in Nigeria and went to South Africa for a week. It was difficult because we didn’t have that much money. I would have loved for us to have about eight weeks here in Nigeria and another two or three weeks in South Africa, but we didn’t have much money,” Okwo explained.
“Speaking about how she was able to play the challenging lead role and get in tune with the character, Ms. Dominic said she felt she needed to play the character since she read the script and she connected to the role.
“For me, when I read a script and the character scares me, that is inspiration right there. When I first read the script and I was getting to the end, I said to myself, what just happened here? I went back to the beginning and read it all the way to the end. I feel for every actor, we are all going to find that one role that we connect with and I did connect to that role and I felt that I needed to be a part of this project.
“During the production, you know planning is everything, with the help of the director we created a backstory for Anjola. Backstories help you a lot because it helps you understand who this person is, where she is coming from, how she looks, why she is this way, just basically everything you need to know. Backstories help in the interpretation of the role and that is it,” she said.
Commenting on Ms Dominic’s role on the project, the director of the movie, Ms Okwo, said she felt lucky to have her and other actors on the set because they made her directional role easy.
She said, “Rita scared me. If you say drop it, she just drops it, takes her close, and goes to sit in a corner and won’t talk to us which is sort of unusual because I thought I had to talk plenty but she said to me that I have been talking to her for five years. I always tell people that I try not to direct on set, even with all the other actors. I was very lucky with them, they prepared. But guess what, people will prepare for you when you give them the right tools.
“As you can see, we put in a nice script, a good script, proper production setting, but we waited a while to get the money because we didn’t have the money initially. We waited almost four years and it was when we found the money that we started.”
Mental Health Challenges
The actress also revealed how she fell into depression while filming her new movie, ‘La Femme Anjola.’
‘‘I couldn’t sleep, I remember my assistant was saying that I couldn’t sleep at night, I would wake up with jolts, it was really depressing. I felt like Anjola,” she revealed.
Ms Dominic said she completely became her character, Anjola, who went through the harrowing consequences of getting entangled with a young male stockbroker and musician, played by Nonso Bassey, while still married to a wealthy gangster.
The director spoke further on how filming intense roles affected the actors mentally. She said the lead characters, Dominic and Bassey, got so engrossed in their roles that it affected their mood off of the set.
She said, “I remember the day that had to do the killing scene, she was so depressed and she would sit away from everybody. She wasn’t talking, she was sad. There was a scene when Nonso found his brother with his girl, he broke down, he started crying, he was into the character.
“That is what we hope to do with Nollywood, if you give people time, they will get into the character, so as a director, all I do is to guide them.”
She added that, unlike most directors, it is important to her how the actors fair mentally so she helped them unwind to feel better.
“Most directors don’t really care about the actors and these emotional things affect them. So what I did after we finished shooting was I flew them away and paid for extra time for them to at least detox because you must take that time. It is very important to me,” she said.
The 54-year-old director also revealed that ‘La Femme Anjola’ is an expensive movie and she is yet to figure out how much the movie costs, adding that she hopes the movie does well in the cinemas.
“Thank God for the pandemic, there are not too many Hollywood movies in our cinemas. I am hoping that people will come out and watch it, we don’t have too many Hollywood films competing. Apart from that, it is a great film.
“Regarding the money, the thing is that we are still spending. It is a very expensive film, I hope that in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to say how much because it is a lot of money,” she said.
La Femme Anjola
Written by Tunde Babalola, ‘La Femme Anjola’ is a psychological-thriller film noir that tells the story of a young man (Nonso Bassey), whose life followed a negative trajectory after he fell for a beauty queen, whom he cannot have.
The film, which is from the stables of ‘The Audrey Silva Company Limited,’ will be distributed by, Silverbird Distribution, the company which distributed their earlier releases – ‘The Meeting’ and ‘Surulere’.
The film was shot in locations in Lagos, Nigeria, and Cape Town (South Africa).