Many of us still remember Bibi Shadbolt’s debut film Afua’s Diary in 2014. Now the British Ghanaian producer is back with an even more daring production. Victoria Island, her new movie is set in the city of the same name in Lagos, Nigeria. The romantic comedy follows the life of an arrogant fashion executive who is given a reality check when she is sent to Africa to oversee the opening of a new store.
We catch up with the Ghanaian born movie maker behind the production to find out more.
- Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born, bred and educated in Ghana. I started my work life as a teacher in one of the international schools in Accra, but migrated to the UK some 17 years ago.
- How did you get into film making?
I’ve always had a passion for writing but did not know how to make a career of it. In 2009 however, I wrote a script for my local TV channel which received great reviews. One of the producers encouraged me to pursue a career in screen writing and that was the start of my film making career. I took courses in screenwriting and film production at the Raindance film school and produced my first movie, ‘Afua’s Diary.
- Tell us about your forth coming film Victoria Island.
Victoria Island follows the life of an arrogant fashion executive who’s given a reality check when she’s asked to oversee the opening of a new store in Nigeria. It is a romantic dramedy that deals with the themes of love, fashion and culture.
- Where did the inspiration to make this film come from and why did you name it Victoria Island?
I created the film to show the beautiful side of Africa not often portrayed by the media. Against a backdrop of a romantic story, audiences get to see a beautiful city and the authenticity of the culture of its people. Most of the scenes are set in Victoria Island in Lagos hence the title.
- Why did you choose to shoot the movie in Nigeria as opposed to Ghana, your native country?
I get asked that a lot. I believe the choice of location for a film should be determined by its relevance to plot and theme. One of the central themes of Victoria Island is fashion and as a giant in the African fashion industry, Nigeria was my first location choice. Afua’s Diary, my debut film was set in Ghana and the UK because the storyline worked very well with a Ghanaian protagonist.
- How important is fashion for you as it is quite prominent in the film?
The theme of fashion is very important to plot development of the film. The world is gradually waking up to African fashion and I thought it would be interesting to portray that subject through cinema. Through the eyes of the protagonist, we get to see the progress Africa has made in the fashion industry and the bright future the industry has.
- Why should people go and see the movie when it’s out?
Victoria Island is what I’ll describe as a ‘wish fulfilment’ love story that will appeal to anyone who has either fallen in love or enjoys a tear-jerking romantic comedy. By ‘wish fulfilment’, I mean the kind of story that one wishes would happen in real life but hardly ever does. In other words, it’s a ‘feel good’ or fairy tale romance.
- Can you give us a teaser?
The cast have been drawn from Hollywood, the UK and Nigeria and are all household names in the USA and Africa. We’ll reveal the names when we go into production in the Autumn.
- Both of your films are romantic stories………?
Lol. I am a romantic at heart and yes, I do enjoy writing romantic stories. Growing up, I read countless books by the British aristocratic romantic novelist, Barbara Cartland. I guess she and other romantic writers influenced my writing. I would however want to try my hands on a thriller one day (with the right budget)!
- So far you have produced films which took place between London and West Africa, will you ever consider other parts of the world?
I established my company (BOS Films) to create and produce African flavoured films for mainstream audience. This is why our films are set in Africa. Nonetheless, we can film anywhere in the world if the story reflects our vision as a company.
- Do you think producers like yourself have succeeded in bringing African cinema to the mainstream?
It’s early days but I do believe it’s achievable. Our first film, Afua’s Diary had a great reception when it was screened in Cannes and Los Angeles. We hope Victoria Island would reach even a wider audience.
- Do you think opportunities have improved over the past few years for African film and African film makers in terms of recognition in the mainstream?
Definitely. I think things have come a long way. There are now support systems in place to help filmmakers along the way and the BFI and Film London have funding options for projects that have great stories but wouldn’t necessarily make it to the cinemas. The success of films such as Gone Too Far and Half a Yellow Sun also prove that mainstream exposure is now possible for African filmmakers.
Victoria Island is scheduled for release in 2018.