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Celebrating African Women In Film: Interview With Michelle Bello

Michelle Bello’s film Flower Girl was an instant hit when it debuted in Nigeria on Valentine’s Day in 2013, ushering in a new wave of romantic comedies and establishing Bello as a power player in Nigeria’s thriving film industry. Demand Africa caught up with the director as she looks back on her success and her next act.

RELATED: Demand Africa Celebrates African Women In Film

DEMAND AFRICA: What inspired you to pursue filmmaking professionally?

MICHELLE BELLO: As long as I can remember, I always wanted to find myself in a field I would be passionate about. Growing up, going to the movies was my favorite hobby, and I would often go out with my mother and brother to watch the latest movies on the big screen. I easily fell in love with the characters and their journeys. I often imagined being a storyteller and thought about how some day in the future I could have my movies on the same big screen, impacting other people’s lives in a powerful and joyous way. My brother, a big influence on me growing up, studied Mass Communications in the USA and also learned about filmmaking. I was sure how much I would love to learn to make films, so it was the natural and logical path for me to follow as well.

DEMAND AFRICA: How has your culture and your upbringing inspired your work?

BELLO: My experiences have influenced my work in so many ways too numerous to count. I am of African, American, and French heritage. I spent my earliest years in Nigeria, lived in the UK as a teenager, and attended university in the USA before moving back to Nigeria. I’ve also traveled a lot over the years for industry related projects and to spend time with family that live all over the world.

The methods and techniques I use to produce and direct my movies are rooted in my academic experiences studying in the USA. I attribute much of my filmmaking style to the African experience, which forces you to be structured but flexible, creative, professional, and most of all, resourceful, in order to produce great work.

michelle bello

DEMAND AFRICA: How do you view your role as storyteller in the film industry?

BELLO: My role as a storyteller in the industry is one I take very seriously. For one, it is a great responsibility to create jobs and help people make a living since the entertainment sector is one of the biggest employers in Nigeria. It is also important that the kind of movies and stories I tell are in line with my values and beliefs, and that they touch the audience in a meaningful and positive way.

DEMAND AFRICA: When you think of the future of filmmaking, what are you most excited about?

BELLO: I’m personally excited about our African stories having bigger production budgets and international mainstream releases in the USA, UK, and around the world where audiences can watch our movies, enjoy our culture, our heritage and our movie stars.

For the industry, I’m really excited about more direct investment into various content distribution streams, including cinemas, community cinemas, VOD and mobile platforms. I really believe it will increase revenues for filmmakers and the industry as a whole. In addition, I think there will be more opportunities for co-productions between local and international companies, which will make it more attractive to other sectors.

DEMAND AFRICA: Which narratives are you most interested in exploring next?

BELLO: I’m interested in exploring more about family, relationships, marriage, and parenting. I’m married to an amazing husband and recently had a beautiful baby boy, so I’m excited to share my experience and perspective on these themes.

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