Nollywood Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

As an avid movie fan I am nearly a complete devote to foreign films, in large part because there are more films being produced outside of Hollywood than within. Computer editing software, digital cameras and the growing skill at story telling and film production have made the last 10 years an exciting display of film making genius. In particular Nigerian cinema or Nollywood as it has come to be known continues to make a strong showing in the number of films along with showcasing a host of African actors that are regulars of American and British cinema. One of the most interesting Nollywood movies in the last few years is the 2013 movie Half of a Yellow Sun (HYS). HYS stars Thandie Newton as Olanna, Anika Noni Rose as the twin sister Kainene, John Boyega as Ugwu, the houseboy of Odenigbo. The main cast gives strong performances but of special note is Odenigbo, skillfully played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Odenigbo is a Nigerian University Professor who loves Olanna and is seen by her sister, Kainene as somewhat of a “store-front” Revolutionary, one prone to talk more than to take action in the liberation of Biafra.

The movie is based on a novel (2006) under the same name by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. HYS re-tells the story of the Biafran or Nigerian Civil (1967 -1970) that broke out due to political and ethnic struggles as a result of economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions mainly between the Hausas of north and the Igbo of the southeast of Nigeria; two million civilians died from forced famine and fighting during the two and half years of the Biafran civil war. Today charges of genocide due to the starvation of Igbo mostly children still deeply divide many along tribal lines in the region.

The story largely concentrates on the characters Olanna, Odenigbo, Kainene and Ugwu, and Kainene’s Caucasian fiancé Richard.   The film focuses sharply on the middle and upper class consciousness that believes in independence for the region of Biafra along tribal lines. The movie carefully crafts both historic footage of principals in the fight for Biafran liberation and the main characters who attempt to live, love and find happiness among the tide of liberation struggles that were characteristic of the 1960s in Africa. What makes this history particularly important was that this struggle was not against European colonial powers but a struggle against other black Africans.

This is a Nigerian film worthy of being a premier Nollywood standout. With a few exceptions the production team was largely Nigerian or have Nigerian descent. Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Boyega are both UK born but his parents are from Nigeria. Thandie Newton, a Cambridge University graduate, while not of Nigerian descent was born to Zimbabwean and English parents. Biyi Bandele, the Nigerian novelist and playwright adapted the screenplay from Adichie’s novel. Nollywood came into its own in the 1999’s and flourished into the 2000s. Today it’s the second most valuable film industry (No the U.S. is third) behind India; generating some $10 billion U.S. dollars annually.

Half of a Yellow Sun is remarkable in that it is another example of the growing African artistic and movie making talent being brought to bear in global cinema. Half of a Yellow Sun is a must see film for both students of African history and those attempting to begin to appreciate Nollywood filmmaking. Preview the movie trailer here:   http://