The press screening of ‘La Femme Anjola’ (LFA), a crime movie starring Rita Dominic and Nonso Bassey, united both movie executives and cast members ahead of its March 19 cinema release.
The preview of the Tunde Babalola-written psychothriller held on Thursday at the EbonyLife Place in VI, Lagos.
The film, also staring Mumbai Maina and Femi Jacobs, follows the story of Dejare, a stockbroker-cum-saxophonist who becomes trapped in a life-threatening game after he meets and falls for Anjola, the wife of a wealthy gangster.
Battling savior complex, Dejare (Bassey) is embroiled in repeated bouts of terrible decisions. This ends up defining him and complicating the narrative amid his quest to find his lover and beat his rivals to a large sum of money.
At the screening, Bassey, who is a musician, recounted to TheCable Lifestyle his experience transitioning into the acting space. He also detailed the research processes he shouldered, including several trips to the stock exchange.
“First, my character is a stockbroker by day and a saxophonist by night. And I’m none of these things. I’m a singer so I had to learn how to play the sax. We didn’t have a lot of time so I had to learn how to finger it,” he explained.
“I studied saxophonists and their body language; how they stand and behave when they’re playing and not playing. I learned to play a few songs that were in the film. I knew how to be on stage, so that was not much of a problem.
“I also had to shadow a few stockbrokers and how they behave. I watched a few films, ‘Wolf of Walstreet’. The idea was to learn how these people behave and marrying the two. It was a lot of research, now that I think about it.
“My script was just full of notes. I had an extra notebook where I wrote all sorts of stuff. My character grew up in Yaba. I had to ask a lot of questions about what Yaba was like in the ’80s and ’90s for a middle-class background.”
‘I drove off, wept deeply’ — Bassey talks emotional struggle on set
Describing LFA as having played into the Nigerian context to dwell on moral corruption in terms of the inordinate quest for wealth, Bassey said he had become so attuned to his character that he broke down crying after a shoot.
“I needed to learn these so I could embody it in my physicality; how I carry my shoulders and talk. We had a lot of conversations before we started filming. We created a backstory for this guy to put the role in context,” he added.
“But even with all that preparation, one is never really ready for what it is while shooting it. You think you’ve got it; you’re good and have rehearsed. But everything coming together just has such an effect on you.
“You do it over and over again to get the good takes and with each of them, the reality of it just kept punching in on me. By the time it was the final cut, I zoomed off in the car, stopped, and broke down. I was half-ashamed.
“I felt so much in the moment. I had to shut down. I was just weeping uncontrollably. The director came and held me. That didn’t help. I just started crying even more. At a point, I started laughing. It was just pent-up emotions.”
‘Sleep deprivation, depression’ — Rita Dominic talks LFA ordeal
Confirming previous disclosures about her mental state while on the set for LFA, Dominic told TheCable Lifestyle she was momentarily in a “dark place” after having to embody the main character for months during the shoot.
“For me, I like a character that scares me and she did that when I read the script. I connected with it on a very deep level. It was like I was lending my body to this Anjola woman to use as a vessel to tell the world her story,” she said.
“It was intense. I had to be in that space for the 26 days we shot in Nigeria the remaining parts in South Africa, six months after we finished here. You can’t really let go of the character completely and can’t get back to being you.
“So it was a sort of limbo. It’s a confusing state. The week we shot the basement scenes; the club scenes, it was very dark for me. I wasn’t sleeping well. At that point, Anjola had really taken over my whole being.
“But the thing is that I’ve been doing this for 23 years, so I found ways to get out of this sort of role.
“I go away; I go off social media and everything. It’s either g You see that play o to the beach or a resort and spend some days; watch films. I basically do the things that Rita loves to do.
“The way Nigeria is now, everyone is desperate to make a living. You see that play out in the movie. Greed, no one is trustworthy anymore. Times are hard. There are those who would stab you in teh back to get a buck.”
“We spent four years sourcing funds to shoot LFA”
Quizzed on how much it cost shooting LFA, Mildred Okwo, the movie director, told TheCable Lifestyle that she had spent four years sourcing funds and seeking the requisite partnerships, which involved pitching and presentations.
“So when I got the script, I realised that it was going to be an expensive film. I initially thought otherwise but by the time I started reading, doing research, and learning how deep the characters go, I realised it would cost a lot,” Okwo said.
“One of the first funding I almost got fell out. I started again. In 2019, someone introduced me to this financial broker. He had never done Nollywood because it’s risky. I put a presentation together. We went to GTI Securities.
“They put me through the wringer to ensure I knew what I was doing and could do it at the level they wanted. They came on board. I raised a few smaller funds to tie everything together. It’s been tough. I’m glad we made it happen.”
Okwo also recounted how the production team had to erect structures and other logistic costs required for the shoot.
“One of the most difficult places was a basement bar. We were looking for a club. We eventually had to build. That was tough. And the studio was charging almost N300k a day or something like a ridiculous amount,” she added.
“We needed to achieve the same thing on a budget. That was a tough one. Then we had to go over to South Africa so we could shoot in those places. It was a beautiful part of South Africa but the terrain is difficult and expensive.
“But we made it and I’m glad. I need to sleep because this took every ounce of blood in me. Some days, I cried when things got so hectic. I just had this undying spirit. We need to show the world that we can do this kind of thing.”
According to the director, periodic breaks for detox and buying time for relaxation from the shoot was a strategy she employed to enable the cast and crew members to cope with the emotional burden of the storyline.
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