And so it continues… a month after the film was initially set to open in Nigerian theaters, it still has yet to receive the necessary certification from the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, that will allow for its local release.
Nigeria has been under an international microscope lately, thanks in large part to the kidnappings of some 300 school girls by Boko Haram, as well as recent news that the country has surpassed South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy; and we could even now add the delayed release of Biyi Bandele’s Half Of A Yellow Sun – a film adaptation of celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize-winning novel of the same name – to that list of local occurrences that have become international stories.
In this case, we can probably thank the growing global reach of the source novel’s author (Adichie), who would eventually utilize her influence to pen an op-ed for The New Yorker, in which she essentially scolds the Nigerian government for trying to run, as well as shield Nigerians from the country’s history. Although she also attempts to make sense of the Censors Board’s ambivalence, stating:
The censors’ action is a knee-jerk political response, yet there is a sense in which it is not entirely unreasonable. Nigeria is on edge, with upcoming elections that will be fiercely contested, religion and ethnicity increasingly politicized, and Boko Haram committing mass murders and abductions. In a political culture already averse to openness, this might seem a particularly appropriate time for censorship. But we cannot hide from our history. Many of Nigeria’s present problems are, arguably, consequences of an ahistorical culture. As a child, I sometimes found rusted bullets in our garden, reminders of how recent the war had been. My parents are still unable to talk in detail about certain war experiences. The past is present, and we are better off acknowledging it and, hopefully, learning from it.
You can read the full insightful piece HERE.
And now the director of the film, Biyi Bandele, has done the same, this time, sharing his frustrations with the Censors Board, in an op-ed he wrote for CNN’s African Voices, titled “Why can’t Nigerians watch country’s biggest movie?“
In the piece, Bandele also chastises the Censors Board, drawing a connection in deed sentiment between its members and Boko Haram.
Government censors say that they have delayed the release of the film because “it might incite violence in the country” given its subject matter – specifically, a scene that details a massacre at a northern Nigerian airport. Bandele believes that the Censors Board might not be giving Nigerian audiences enough credit, and ultimately, this will likely end up being much ado about nothing, as the noise created by the film’s release delays may actually drowned out any made by audiences about the content, after the film is finally released.
Since the Toronto premiere those many months ago, I’ve seen “Half of a Yellow Sun” at other film festivals in all corners of the globe. And Nigerians being the ubiquitous people that we are have been present in the audiences — quite often in great numbers — at each of these festivals. I am yet to meet a single Nigerian who has seen the film who came out of the cinema thinking that they had just seen a film that would incite anyone to violence. If anything, more than once, I’ve been accosted by cinema-goers — some Nigerian, but really, people of all races — who have been profoundly moved by the experience of watching the film. The refrain I’ve heard from them is, war is nasty, isn’t it.
He then calls on Patricia Bala, director-general of the Censors board, to do what he believes is the right thing, and allow Nigerians in Nigeria to see the film as it’s meant to be seen; not illegally, speaking to the local movie industry’s piracy problem.
Whether or not the film eventually gets a ratings certificate in Nigeria, “Half of a Yellow Sun” will be seen by millions of Nigerians. The question is: will they be allowed to see it in their local cinemas and on legally acquired DVDs or will they be forced to watch it on pirate DVDs and through illegal downloads? If the biggest film that’s ever been made in Nigeria is available to Nigerians only in bootleg form, the censorship board will be doing to the Nigerian film industry what Boko Haram is trying to do to Nigeria: drive a stake through its heart. I sincerely hope they both fail.
Those in the USA will remember when, as one example, Spike Lee’s incendiary Do The Right Thing was a concern for distributors and theaters during the year of its release, who feared that the film would spark riots and violence. It didn’t.
Half Of A Yellow Sun is already out in theaters in the UK and the USA.
Produced by Bafta award-winner Andrea Calderwood (The Last King of Scotland) and Gail Ega (The Constant Gardner), the film is a British/Nigerian co-production and was shot at Tinapa Film Studio in Nigeria and in the UK.
For more info on the film’s Stateside release, visit http://montereymedia.com/halfofayellowsun/.
Watch several clips and check out images from the film below: