A tale of child abuse and a boy’s life in the Lagos slums, ‘Small Boy’ premiered at the Silverbird Cinemas in Lagos on May 27, with guests from across Nigeria’s economic sphere in attendance.

Compere of the event was TV host and emcee Soni Irabor. Praising Bello’s debut film as a sign of things to come, Irabor said this showed that, “We have people who can portray Nigeria in a more realistic sense than just entertainment. We have Nigerians who are trained to give up their best, who are conscientious, deep in thought and feel for Nigeria’s progress.”

He went on to introduce stage and screen icon, Segun Olusola as special guest of honour.

“The beauty of this occasion is that a very young lady who is in her 20s is inviting a man, who is almost eighty to come and see her work. It means there is continuity in life,” Irabor said.

Speaking at the premiere, Olusola, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia and producer of the classic ‘Village Headmaster’ TV series said, “I wanted very much to be at this event because we really did not know that these children would come close to doing what they are now doing.”

The foremost broadcast media personality congratulated Bello’s parents, saying, “Your daughter is making a foray into regions that we did not quite succeed in doing and I’m looking forward to seeing not just this particular event but also coming into corridors whenever you are rehearsing your group. You’ll keep me alive much longer if you’ll tolerate me in the rehearsal rooms to see how you people do things nowadays.”

Raising levels

The former ambassador said he was pleased at the occasion of events like these as such show that “we didn’t go into the theatre, into the media, into television for nothing.

“Your generation will prove to us that although we did not quite succeed in raising levels beyond Nigeria, you are going to take us – from what I’ve heard about this film- beyond Nigeria, beyond Africa and in different parts of the world.”

Proof of such likelihood, he said, was because a former ambassador to Israel had praised ‘Small Boy.’ The envoy to Israel also told Olusola that the film has been widely embraced by the Nigerian community in Israel.

“There will be more to come from your direction,” Olusola concluded in praise of Bello.

Also supporting the young filmmaker on this evening were acclaimed Nigerian poet and playwright J.P. Clark, and Nollywood personalities Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Iretiola Doyle and Kunle Coker amongst other members of the diplomatic community.

Professor of Medicine Olu Akinyanju, Sandra Obiago of Communicating For Change (CFC), filmmaker Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Marlies Allan and Ndidi Dike were also in the audience with cast members Toyin Oshinaike, Richard and Mary Chukwuma and Najite Dede, who was accompanied by her sister Michelle, a former Big Brother Nigeria presenter.

For Children’s Day

Introducing Bello to the audience, Irabor said, “What you will see soon after you hear her talk is probably a reflection of what she thinks is going on right now in our lives in Nigeria.”

He described her as “beautiful and purposeful, one of Nigeria’s very best even in her very young age.”

Bello, whose ‘Small Boy’ received two AMAA awards in 2009 and two nominations at the 2008 American Black Film Festival, said, “This has been a long, three-year journey since we shot the film and it has travelled to different festivals and won different awards.”

Since the film was premiering on Children’s Day, she asked that the audience join her in applauding the film’s young cast and the children whose day it was. “This film has taken me on a journey,” said the young filmmaker, who has also forayed into shooting music videos with her work on TY Bello’s popular ‘Greenland’ video.

“When I made this film I never thought it would get this kind of response. I set out to make a different kind of Nigerian film and that’s what you are going to see (in) ‘Small Boy,” Bello said of the work released by her production company Blu Star Entertainment.

At the end of the film, when Irabor asked if the audience had enjoyed the show, it was obvious that they had shared in the protagonist Sunny Agaga’s journey of discovery after a series of scrapes and lucky escapes. It was a resounding “Yes.”

‘Small Boy’ stars Akin Lewis, Najite Dede, Justus Esiri, Norbert Young, Toyin Oshinaike and Richard Chukwuma as Sunny Agaga. It follows the story of young Sunny who runs away from home and discovers a life below the law’s radar doing what young boys should not be doing given the right circumstances. But what are the right circumstances?

Bello’s debut effort with ‘Small Boy’ is a pointer to the fact that positive change is possible in Nollywood only if we try.