African Outlook Online

African Outlook Entertainment

Half of a Yellow Sun Film Delayed by Nigeria Censors

Half of a Yellow Sun Film Delayed by Nigeria Censors


Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ will hit the cinemas worldwide today but Nigeria's film board has delayed the release of the film which is about the Biafran war

Director Biyi Bandele (l) and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently attended the premiere in Lagos

The film, by Nigerian-born British director Biyi Bandele, was set to open in Nigerian cinemas on Friday.  But it will not be shown in Nigeria until 2 May. No thanks to Nigeria’s Censors Board, which had caused the delay.


A film board spokesman told AFP there were "regulatory issues" with the film but that it wasn't "officially banned."  The film is based on a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about the 1967-70 civil war, in which more than a million people died.


Aliyu Tanko, from the BBC Hausa service, says that more than 40 years after the end of the war, the subject remains extremely sensitive in Nigeria.  Some fear the film, which is seen as sympathetic to the Biafran separatist cause, could stoke up ethnic tensions, he says.


However, contrary to reports of a ban of the Nigerian international movie, “Half of A Yellow Sun” by the National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, producers of the $10 million film have dismissed those reports.


In a short message obtained by P.M.NEWS on Friday, producers said the movie-originally scheduled to open at cinemas across Nigeria today 25 April-was postponed due to the delay in obtaining the censors board’s certification.

One of the reasons Nigeria is more divided today... than it was before the war started, is because we have refused to talk about the elephant in the room” - Biyi Bandele Film director.


“The highly anticipated release of Half of a Yellow Sun in Nigeria has been postponed due to delays in obtaining certification from the National Film and Video Censors Board for the public release of the film. Subject to obtaining the certification of the Board, the film is now rescheduled for release on 2 May 2014.”


A source close to the censors board told P.M.NEWS that the board directed the producers of the film to expunge or edit some scenes in the film, particularly the steamy and violent scenes.


The movie “Half of a Yellow Sun” was an adaptation of the highly successful novel-Half A Yellow Sun-written by a Nigerian female novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  The film, financed by Yewande Sadiku, investment banker and CEO, Stanbic IBTC Capital Limited, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Onyeka Onwenu, Genevieve Nnaji, OC Ukeje, Tina Mba and Wale Ojo.


The book was released in Nigeria but with the country's high rates of illiteracy, a film is likely to get more attention.  Mr Bandele told the BBC's Focus on Africa program that he wasn't sure why the censorship board had delayed certification.  The Nigeria film board saw the film seven months ago, Mr Bandele said.


"What's frustrating is we have not received a formal letter from the board telling us we've been banned, or that we've not been banned," he added.


A scene from Half Of A Yellow Sun


He denied the film was biased and stressed that he did not see how it could incite violence.  The director also said the film raised issues which Nigeria badly needed to discuss.


"One of the reasons Nigeria is more divided today - 40 years after the end of the war - than it was before the war started, is because we have refused to talk about the elephant in the room."


Board spokesman Caesar Kagho told AFP there were “regulatory issues” with the release, but that the film had not been “officially banned”.  He said the board would issue further details later on Friday.  It was not clear if the certification delay was linked to film’s content.


“Half of Yellow Sun” stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his role in “12 Years a Slave,” named 2014′s Best Picture.  The Biafra War began after the eastern region tried to secede from the newly independent Nigeria.


The East, dominated by members of the Igbo ethnic group, claimed their tribesman were being massacred in the mainly Muslim north and accused the federal government of failing to provide protection.  Their attempt to create an independent Igbo-led nation, which they called Biafra, was crushed by British-backed federal forces which had military superiority and used scorched earth tactics, including the blockage of all food imports to the breakaway region.


More than four decades on, the Biafra War remains a highly contentious subject in Nigeria.  In his last published work before his death in 2013, acclaimed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, an Igbo, sparked a heated debate about the conflict that raged on television and in newspapers for weeks.


In “There Was A Country,” Achebe accused a revered leader from the Yoruba-dominated West, Obafemi Awolowo, of supporting the starvation of Igbos to further his own political goals.  Yoruba leaders reacted furiously to the charge and the debate further highlighted the lingering bitterness from the conflict.


“Half of a Yellow Sun”, which had its global premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, is already showing in Britain and Australia and is scheduled to open soon in the United States and other countries.


The film features Twelve Years a Slave actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and Crash star Thandie Newton.