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The Sprightly Spirit Of Nollywood

Michelle Bello is Nollywood’s up-and-coming female director and needs direction from no one. Just you dare try.

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If you ever thought that Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry was only about directors with low budgets churning out films in a couple of weeks, which were shot in the streets of Lagos or in their lounges; think again. Nigerian producers and directors are stepping away from the generic Nollywood film mold; their films are emerging onto international cinema screens at film festivals.

The award-winning Michelle Bello is one such film director and producer. Bello studied visual media at Regent University in Virginia in the United States. In three decades since its establishment, the school has attracted distinguished faculty and guest lectures such as John Ashcroft, former United States attorney general; Vern Clark, former chief of naval operations and Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes Inc. Over the years, the university has been the recipient of more than 267 national and international film awards.

During her time at the university, Bello had the opportunity to attend some of the biggest film festivals including the Sundance Film Festival, which—since its launch in 1985—has been the launchpad for many films. Some of these films gained critical recognition, received commercial distribution and reached audiences eager for fresh perspectives and new voices.

Bello is dedicated to the film industry and was even an intern at the prestigious Cannes film festival. According to the official websites, “Ever since [Festival de Cannes’] creation, [it] has remained faithful to its founding purpose: to draw attention to and raise the profile of films with the aim of contributing towards the development of cinema, boosting the film industry worldwide and celebrating cinema at an international level”.

With these experiences she came to appreciate that successful filmmakers are those who are patient and passionate about their craft.

She lives by the fact that filmmaking is not about rushing into things and making millions of films; it’s all about taking the time to make powerful films. Small Boy, which was inspired by Will Smith’s Oscar-nominated Pursuit of Happyness, was Bello’s debut film about 10-year-old Sonny who has to learn how to survive in the slums of Lagos. She felt that there was a need for such a film in Nigeria.

“For me, the reason why I made Small Boy is because I was tired of seeing the world just having a negative image of Nigeria. I wanted to do something that was an inspirational story. At that time, I felt that we needed such kind of movies to uplift Nigerians and there were very few films doing that. I was not thinking about how much money I will make, I was just passionate about the story,” she says.

The truth is that while Small Boy might not have been a moneymaking blockbuster, nor was it launched at Cannes or Sundance, or gained recognition on a global scale, it has however made headlines in the industry. The film scooped two awards at the 2009 African Film Academy Awards and was screened at the American Black Film Festival in the United States, where it received

two nominations.

She has also opened the eyes of International Creative Management (ICM), one of the top three recruitment agencies, which believed in the skills that this young Nigerian filmmaker had to offer.

“I got to see Hollywood from the inside…” says Bello about her experience at ICM.

She discovered that although there is talent in Africa, recruitment agencies are not queuing up at Africa’s international airports to whisk away this talent to the promised land

of Hollywood.

“They work in a complete business end of it. Someone like Genevieve [Nnaji], for example, is our superstar and from their perspective they don’t see her as [being] bankable. They need to pick the big stars, whether it is Will Smith or Denzel Washington, who are bankable, whom if they are put in the movie are going to make billions of dollars… Unfortunately, right now, they are not at that level where they can get someone like Genevieve and say she can bring 10 million…” says Bello.

Despite this, Bello is optimistic. She was quoted in NigeriaFilms.com as saying, “The growth in the [Nollywood] industry over the next few years will be exciting because there are young people [of my generation] that are now coming up wanting to tell Nigerian stories to an international audience.”

With new cameras and editing equipment, it is now possible for African filmmakers to make films the same way a painter draws or novelists write.

Filmmakers, however, cannot avoid costs. A novelist can write a novel with a pen and paper if they like, they don’t even need a computer. A sculpturer or a painter can use worthless materials such as plastic to create a sculpture or painting, which may be sold for $200. But for filmmakers, it is different. Films inadvertently require money because of the number of people and processes involved in front of and behind the camera: food has to be bought for the crew; filming permits need to be acquired; music needs to be recorded and then there is editing. All these come at a cost, which filmmakers have to budget for.

The Nigerian filmmaker is currently working on another romantic comedy, which started shooting in August and is scheduled for completion in January. The budget for the film is $300,000—two times larger than the first film. She admits, jokingly, that the largest portion of her film budget goes to food catering and the generator.

“I called my brother and told him that the generator is eating into my budget. He was shocked to hear that I had to pay for the generator to film.”

Bello is working closely with her California-based brother who is an award-winning screenplay writer. She wrote the original script during her screenwriting classes at

Regent University.

“I was about to come back here [to Nigeria] whilst completing my internship at Cannes and I was thinking about what project I am going to do next. I thought about the script and talked to my brother about it… and now the script is now where it is today, we are making a movie,”

she says.

She knows how tough the film industry can be and so her intention with this new film is to create a platform for young and upcoming actors to shine and showcase their talent. At first, she was unsure about having auditions, owing to the fact that she had been away from Nigeria for so long. To her surprise the turnout was impressive. It attracted many actors from the popular Nigerian soap opera, Tinsel, which is an M-Net production known for its quality in West Africa. The film will feature stars such as Damilola Adegbite and Ghanaian actor

Chris Attoh.

Piracy is a big problem in Nigeria. It is for this reason that Bello has been careful of whom to give the film to. With her new project she is not concerned because the film is made for theatrical release and has managed to secure various international cinema releases before being released on DVD which is where piracy is most prominent. With this she is hoping to get her money back and make profit, only to invest it further in her passion for filmmaking.

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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