Five years after it was first announced that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s hugely successful novel Half of a Yellow Sun (HOAYS) will be adapted into film, fans of the Nigerian writer will see the premiere at the Toronto film festival this Sunday September 8 2013.
With a price tag of $8 million, HOAYS, the 33 mm epic film is now officially the most expensive film ever produced in Nollywood, Nigeria’s blooming film industry.
Directed by playwright turned filmmaker Biyi Bandele, the film, like the novel centers around the lives and loves of four people and the upheavals their lives go through when civil war broke out in eastern Nigeria and lasted for 3 years (1967-1970)
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton play the leading roles in the film and are two lovers from wealthy backgrounds who struggle to adapt as their love stories and lives are chronicled within the context of a brutal civil war in Nigeria during which the Igbo’s tried unsuccessfully to create a Biafra republic. The story is told through three points of view, the 13 year old Ugwu a village boy who becomes houseboy to a radical university professor, Olanna, the daughter from a wealthy family and Richard, the expatriate from England who falls in love with Olanna’s sister.
There were shouts of protests when British born Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor were chosen to play both lead roles. Blogger critic Seyi Lawal described the decision in her blog as “ terrible news and does not bode well for an industry that is widely regarded as taking baby steps towards retrieving its sanity”. There are no shortage of Nigerian born stars who could have played both leading roles. Newton has a Zimbabwean mother and a British father. Ejiofor her onscreen lover is also British but has Nigerian parents.
Like Chinua Achebe the recently deceased “father of African literature”, Chimamanda is from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria and struggles to balance her duty to her ethnicity and her patriotism for Nigeria, the country she must identify herself with after the Biafra misadventure failed. We will today have known Achebe and Chimamanda as Biafrans and not Nigerians had the civil war succeeded in dividing the country
General Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Ojukwu spectacularly failed to separate the country but the scars the civil war left are still felt across Nigeria today.
Chimamanda still believes and says this implicitly in the novel that most of the problems that led to the civil war including marginalization of the Igbos persists today. Nigeria’s four major tribes the Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and Fulanis are still at loggerheads with each other.
The Washington Post described Chimamanda as “the 21st century daughter of Chinua Achebe”. At only 35, Chimamanda still needs to wear the hugely over-sized shoes Achebe left in the literary landscape in Nigeria when he died early this year.
Taking the 448 page book to the screen was a big enough challenge for director Bisi Bandele but raising the $8 million needed to produce the film was even more difficult. This is the main reason reason it took more than four years to take the novel off the pages of a novel to the silver screen.
By deciding to produce the film in mm format, and shooting and editing for more than three years, the film director Bisi Bandele is making a strong mission statement; it is time Nigerian films stand up and be counted. Amateurism will take some time to kick off Nollywood for the simple reason that raising $8 million dollars to produce a single film is just not possible for 99 percent of film directors in Nigeria.
Chimamanda’s novel HOAYS received the 2007 £30.000 Orange Prize for Fiction awarded for any full length novel written by a woman in English. Purple Hibiscus, her first novel made the 2004 Orange prize shortlist. Americanah is her latest novel
A host of Nigerian stars including author Chimamanda are expected to grace Sunday’s film premiere at the Toronto film festival in Canada
Herewith a full cast of the film
|Anika Noni Rose||…||Kainene|
|Hakeem Kae-Kazim||…||Captain DUTSE|
|Rob David||…||Redhead Charles|
|Genevieve Nnaji||…||Ms Adebayo|
|Paul Hampshire||…||Professor Lehman|