Casting Of Thandie Newton In "Half Of A Yellow Sun" Film Adaptation Draws Criticism & Petition To Recast

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 27, 2012 11:05 AM
112 Comments
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It was announced yesterday that actress Thandie Newton has signed on to co-star in the upcoming Nigeria-set screen adaptation of author Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half Of A Yellow Sun, alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor and Dominic Cooper.

The 2006 novel, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, is set during the Nigerian Civil War (otherwise known as the Nigerian-Biafran War), from 1967 - 1970, that saw Muslim- forces from northern Nigerian laying siege to the Christian Igbo of the south, who sought to secede from Nigeria after the widespread massacre of igbo people. The war claimed some 3 million lives.

Adichie's novel explores the impact of the conflict through the stories of a professor, a high-ranking political figure, a British citizen, and a young house boy.

Financing is already in place with production set to begin in March.

Soon after yesterday's news broke, my Twitter feed was partly abuzz about the project - but most specifically on the casting of Thandie Newton as an Igbo woman......

Fill in the blanks.

But I'll reserve comment on all of that for now, and instead guide you directly to the petition which says everything you need to know about the matter; so click HERE to go THERE.

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112 Comments

  • concern | May 22, 2012 12:28 AMReply

    Excellent choice of cast.. people on here talking rubbish Thandie newton would do a good job as olanna, everything about the movie is going to go right. can't wait.

  • Db | May 21, 2012 6:52 AMReply

    Please leave Nollywood out of any RIGHT representation of our great country Nigeria. They make interesting movies but do not represent the culture well instead someone's husband is being poisoned in a scene every other night. And please we need better actors who know how to embody characters instead of play themselves in every movie. THANDIE NEWTON IS A BLOODY GOOD CHOICE.

  • Chima Ezeilo | April 27, 2012 5:54 PMReply

    It still amazes me that despite the Nollywood explosion, actors are still cast into roles they have no hope of authenticating. Am I alone in wincing anytime I go to watch a Hollywood movie and an American is cast as a Nigerian and they spit out this pitiful adulterated accent that makes a real Nigerian try to rewind the film and struggle to understand what they are saying?...This is just not right and I truly hope that one day, those casting for movies like this will tap into the immense resource that is within the Nollywood industry. Thank God Genevieve is in there…some sanity.

  • Tunji | April 27, 2012 9:05 AMReply

    Freaking idiots. I don't want Thandie Newton in the moir because Olanna is suppose to be a breathtaking beauty. I don't see Newton as such. But if this means more people will watch the movie leading to other major African-themed movies being made then Thandie Newton it is. If U are that pressed U should've bought the rights to the movie and put Nneka from your village in Abia. Freaking ignorant Negros. My wife's Igbo so don't come at me with some tribalist ish. I paid that large bride price. I'm one of U.

  • African-American | April 7, 2012 12:59 AMReply

    I can't wait to see this movie when it comes out. Such a great cast. I think choosing Thandie and Chiwetel was a very smart move. Love them both

  • Half-Nigerian | February 13, 2012 2:26 AMReply

    Color me stupid, but wasn't there a character in the book that was explicitly described a thin and yellow skinned?

  • damaris | February 12, 2012 4:45 PMReply

    CALM DOWN! casting Thandie is a good move, it will sell better with a celebrity on board; surely this is not Rocket science
    2. if you want to cast your own, just write another script on the biafran war and cast away

  • half-nigerian | February 13, 2012 2:33 AM

    I agree! We should be happy that a movie about our history is being made. Instead ya'll wanna squabble over bs details. Please name 1 mainstream movie about Nigeria that has been made. Go ahead. I'm waiting...

    Do you think people even know that Nigeria had a civil war and the toll it took on millions of people? All of you are missing the forest for the trees; our story is being told!!! I don't care if they cast Mariah Carey as the momma and James Earl Jones as the daddy. While were at, they should cast Beyonce (poor thing can't even act surprised). They could cast every light-skinneded (that's how you spell it) Negro in the US and the UK, our story is being told!!!

  • Ifeoma | February 12, 2012 6:33 AMReply

    As a very proud Igbo woman, I’ll give my opinion on this. I agree that casting Thandie Newton was the wrong decision in three main factors. The first factor was that this is the second movie made about Biafra war and just like the first movie; Igbo people playing in the movie are limited. Is that fair? Only one person is actually an Igbo person (Chiwetalu Ejiofor) playing in this second version of the Half of Yellow sun similar to the first movie. WTF? In the first movie ,Tears of the Sun, out of all the black actors and actresses used for that movie including the extras only one woman (the main woman beside the white lady) was an actual Igbo person, every other person playing the Igbo war victims were either Southern African(SA, zim, etc.) or Eastern African(Ugandans, etc.) despite not looking Igbo. Is that fair I ask? Are we not allowed to partake in our history? I'm not shocked some Igbos are angry. In our culture, they value authenticity very well, if you can't act like us and you do not look like us, don't play us. Leave it be. Igbo people don't play when it comes to our culture; history, etc. trust me on this. Accurate authenticity is everything in our culture. In the first movie, the cast did not portray the feeling or sadness the Igbo victims felt during the Biafra war well enough. How do I know this despite being born after Biafran war? Well, of all the people I knew that experienced the Biafra War, most of them got up and left when I played the Tears of the Sun for them even though they were so interested to watch it in the beginning. They loved Hotel Rwandan and Blood Diamond and when I informed them there was a movie about Biafra War, you should have seen how their eyes lit up to watch it; upon watching the movie, all of them left half way through the movie including my parents and when I asked what was wrong they claimed the movie did not capture the history well enough. I hope this new movie does not become another botched Westerner version of Biafra war and the cast member captures the Biafra victims feelings well enough. If not, they should leave the book be.

  • Ifeoma | February 12, 2012 6:39 AM

    For those claiming there are Igbo as light skin as her so why are some Igbo bitching? Yes there are Igbo as light skin as Thandie but Thandie do not resemble a light skin Igbo or even Igbo in general. This is how a typical light skin/yellow skin Igbo looks
    http://i1134.photobucket.com/albums/m617/photobucket398/ARISE-Magazine-Fashion-Week-Day-2-BELLA-NAIJA-March-2011-0011-397x600.jpg
    http://i1134.photobucket.com/albums/m617/photobucket398/Vanessag.jpg
    http://cdnza.playfair.co.za/kickoff/6de910785ee1299e70074c1b89ac9f28.jpg
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_u3lFqBksmrE/SqIfeQaNTQI/AAAAAAAAW-I/xw4KBAUeA7s/s400/n1311444092_30242566_1486.jpg
    http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/uploads/images/about/southeastman.jpg
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Z10wsJbYPjc/ToKwTnb49VI/AAAAAAAABIk/BV-455-Zb5M/s1600/My-style-pix-1-Munachi-Abii.jpg
    http://a2.twimg.com/profile_images/1587939278/Photo_on_2011-10-14_at_12.42__2.jpg
    http://i1134.photobucket.com/albums/m617/photobucket398/ezemom.jpg

    I think I might have overdone it with the pictures but I do hope my point was conveyed. As you can see despite Thandie being mixed, her features is that of a southern African (i.e.: SA, zim, Swaziland, Namibia, etc.) as oppose to a light skin Igbo. I did not post a dark skin Igbo, if I did, you’ll see even better how far off she is from an Igbo look. Yes, there’s not a specific Igbo look but there are some features you wouldn’t find among us that thandie possesses. Biracial Igbos does not even look like her

  • Ifeoma | February 12, 2012 6:34 AM

    continuation:


    The second point goes back to the first point: Can Thandie capture the feeling of the victim well enough? Thandie Newton is a good actress but I've never seen her act a movie where she had to be a victim. The only movie I can remember her playing something similar to a victim act was the story about black women hair or something like that and I remembered she did terrible in that movie. If she can pull off the war victim act then more power to her. I support her playing an Igbo woman. The third point is I don't agree with Akunna's petitioning against her because of her skin tone. Who gives a crap if she's light skin? There are 100% Igbo people as light as Thandie and some that are even lighter than her, should we cast them off from the Igbo community? Should we ban them from portray an Igbo woman in any movie? WTF? Get rid of your colorist Akunna. I do agree with you on one thing, thandie do not resemble an Igbo whether light or dark; her southern African features are very dominant despite being mixed. She can easily pass as a southern African from SA, Zim, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, etc. but not an Igbo woman.

  • Kola | February 7, 2012 6:29 AMReply

    To all you Nigerians/Igbos demanding authenticity... If you want u want a "true igbo" playing the role, go make your own movie. None of you are funding this film and it isn't a film based on real individuals (it's fiction). I don't know what identity/insecurity/self esteem issues you guys had growing up as a children, but go deal with that at your own time and leave this film alone.... that is all.

  • Chimaoge1 | February 4, 2012 2:58 PMReply

    Let me just add that the British producers were gracious enough to accede to demands that the screenplay writer be a Nigerian. I am aware the Nigerian publisher "Farafina Books" are also involved in the movie production.

    The only criticism that I feel is valid is that the movie is gonna be shot in Kenya which may not be able to recreate the dense greenery of Eastern Nigeria's tropical rainforest environment. From what I know, Kenya looks more like semi-arid Guinea Savannah. Moreover, the movie extras are likely to be Kenyans who cannot speak Igbo or the other Nigerian languages (i.e. Hausa and Yoruba) portrayed in Ms Adichie's novel. But then the movie doesn't have to be a perfect adaptation of the book.

  • bose | February 25, 2012 9:36 AM

    The movie is to be shot on location in Calabar, Nigeria not Kenya

  • Chimaoge1 | February 4, 2012 2:29 PMReply

    Apologies for the typographic errors. Let me just make one correction:

    RE: " The producers of the movie and doing us a favour"
    ---------------------------
    ***Correcting the typo, the above comment should read as follows : ***
    -------------------------------
    "The producers of the movie ARE doing us a favour"

  • Chimaoge1 | February 4, 2012 2:21 PMReply

    I am just laughing at the lot of you making these silly complaints. Nigeria has its own movie industry. Can they make an authentic war movie about Biafra? If you lot are angry why not raise a petition to Nollywood producers to make such a movie with 100% Nigerian actors/actresses. Since most of the movie funders in Nollywood (a.k.a "marketers") are Igbo, this should be a cake-walk.

    BTW, I am Igbo and I have relatives with lighter skin colour than that lady Thandie Newton. These relatives are 100% Igbo. It is false to state that majority of light-skinned Igbos are mixed race. During the 1966 massacres in North that eventually culminated in the civil war, many non-Igbos who looked "yellow" were killed because the homicidal Hausa Muslim mobs mistook them for Igbos. So this is to inform the uninformed that being light-skinned is no big deal in Igboland or in Nigeria as a whole.

    We should be careful not to start copying race-sensitive Black Americans with stupid grievance terminologies such as "shadism" or "colourism". Thandie Newton will make a good "Igbo woman". The producers of the movie and doing us a favour. If the British Film Institute pull their funding and the British producers pull out, will Nollywood make the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie's book. Can Nollywood producers replicating the scenery, clothes, music, cars, hairstyles of the 1960s? Can they depict a convincing air raid scene with massive bombings and heavy machine gun strafing? Can Nollywood do it ---even with Computer Generated Imagery? Can Nollywood producers have the patience to wait several months to produce just one movie when they are used to producing hundreds of slapdash movies within the space of a couple of months?

  • Ifeoma | February 12, 2012 6:32 AM

    So true

  • CreoleSista | February 1, 2012 4:13 PMReply

    I haven't read the book but know many who have and from what I understand the character that Thandie plays, although Igbo, is light-skinned. Can someone please confirm this...

  • Donella | February 1, 2012 1:38 PMReply

    This issue is somewhat over my head? I view it with the same uncertainty that I viewed the casting of Jennifer Lopez (Puerto Rican) to portray Selena (Mexican). Mexican viewers were up in arms because the culture difference was an affront to Selena's memory. But since I didn't have a strong stake in either culture, I couldn't participate in the discussion with any authority. I was more on the sidelines for that discussion and I feel the same here. The casting of Thandie Newton (Zimbabwean) to portray a Nigerian is also over my head from a cultural aspect. I'm African American and don't have a strong understanding of the cultural affront. I'll continue to read about the issues on these threads and I think I'll read the book too. I hope the movie turns out well, whatever happens.

  • Puzzled.. | January 31, 2012 2:13 PMReply

    An actor/actress- a person who can research, embody and take on the spirit of any role that they are blessed with. Fact- it's a harder job than many realise to be natural and captivating on screen-end. Have some of the people commenting ever tried it? What next West Indian actors hould never be cast EVER as they are not 'African' enough- ludicrous..Thandie wont be playing herself, she'll be playing a character- and I'm sure she'll strive for authenticity, which is why she is booked. Question how any of this is helping to progress the UK industry- with such undertones of grudging the woman her job?? Under the laws of attraction- such bad energy.

  • Irony | January 31, 2012 8:43 AMReply

    You know... When Harriet was freeing the slaves.. There were a lot of slaves that didn't want to leave "massas" plantation.. Who thought that everyone should just be happy that "massa" was putting a roof over their head and giving them meals in the first place... The people that approve of this film, and the people that approve the the film "The Help" are a prime example of those reluctant freed slaves.

  • get these nets | January 31, 2012 1:53 AMReply

    Listened to the podcast of the Sunday show

    first time checking it out, very well done program.

    besides multiple people calling "ee-bows"...IGLOOS.....show was great.

    The username "getthesenets" is not a crude joke by the way... just a sports reference..about NJ's basketball team relocating to Brooklyn.

    I fully understand and agree with specific ethnic group standing up for themselves and calling for more authentic casting. If nothing else, it brings the issue front and center.

  • Hurt | January 30, 2012 10:46 PMReply

    I think the saddest part of all of this is the black men fighting the black women... We are your sisters. We're not "jealous" of biracial women. Not at all. We are secure in our beauty. But it would be impossible to ignore the way that the media treats black women, especially in terms of beauty. As black men that come from black women, it would be nice to have some support from you all. Just take a moment to think about where we are really coming from. "Oh you just hatin on her high yella ass" ...Not at all. I think she is beautiful. But there are also many beautiful brown skinned and dark skinned women...Igbo women who would be better fitting for this part. The American media has purposely casted black men in several roles, and then erased the black woman. It makes it so that the black man does not see the struggle that the black woman is going to. The black mans looks are accepted into main stream society while the black woman's looks are not. As a result, the black man and the black woman are now facing two different struggles. The black man no longer sees things on an equal field as the black woman. He tells the black woman that she is complaining or that she is jealous. No. We just want love. And I am in tears while I write this. We just want the love and the support of our man. Like others races of men support their women. It doesn't make you racist to support people who look like you. I am not angry with you all that disagree with the petition.. I just wish you could understand that we are your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your cousins. The media has taught you to resent us. We love you. I love you all. I love the darkest of you all and the lightest of you all. Please. Love me back.

  • This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things | January 31, 2012 12:52 AM

    @ HURT
    I don't know what all the "we" stuff is, but I was taught to love myself regardless of whether anyone else does. So no, I don't want anything from anyone. As long as black women seek validation outside of themselves, be it from (insert race here) men or the media at large, they will be sorely disappointed. I think that's what's happening here and, as a black woman, I think it's sad.

    Now to those who say this fuss is because Thandie isn't Nigerian, does that mean African Americans should get upset whenever Idris Elba or David Oyewolo get cast as AA? Just wondering.

  • Dubem | January 30, 2012 10:19 PMReply

    Sorry. This is offensive. And you're not really a knowledgeable Igbo person if you think she can't pass for Igbo. Igbos range in various shades of color and there are many who have lighter skin than Thandie and have blue eyes. Did you have a problem with Sophie Okonedo playing a Rwandan in Hotel Rwanda? Start thinking before you post ignorant assed shit. Especially if you're claiming to be Igbo. Get off the train of bashing new black work and be happy attention is being drawn to something that has affected many of our own families instead of being caught up on your own hang ups. And twitter doesn't count as a petition. BOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

  • Boomslang | January 31, 2012 6:16 PM

    Or Morgan Freeman and Terrance Howard as Nelson Mandela respectively ( and in two different movies ). Maybe Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose as Botswana women perhaps ? or Jill scott as Winnie Mandela ? or even Derek Luke as Patrick Chamusso ? to name a few.

  • artbizzy | January 30, 2012 12:50 PMReply

    These types of threads sadly get some of the most responses. But the brother who made what looks like a beautiful documentary about his experiences with his autistic son ("Autistic Like Me" I think it's called) hardly get any responses at all. Is it because he's light-skinned? Here we are complaining about a black actress, yes I said it, black is black. One of her parent's is African for God sakes. No she's not dark-skinned and yes her other parent is White, ok so what? The colorism issues have got to stop amongst us before they reach Hollywood. Hollywood makes those choices because we are constantly expressing that conflict amongst ourselves. Hollywood didn't start it. They perpetuate it because they don't know any better and frankly don't give a damn. The ways we speak about blackness and who is more black and not so black is heartbreaking. I know dark skinned sisters continuously get ignored and maligned in the media as well as black women in general but I do know that dark skinned sisters can at times get it worse. We're righteously angry, we're upset but now we're trying to get this sister out of a job. We've got to choose our battles. This should be a call to us to come together and put more dark-skinned black women front and center. ASSIGNMENT: Instead of getting a sister out of a job will a black screenwriter who is deeply troubled by this casting and have a serious inclination to do so write an original screenplay starring a dark skinned black woman concerning the impact the media has on her self-esteem. WILL SOMEONE WHO HAS MONEY PAY A BLACK SCREENWRITER TO DO THIS? PLEASE! IT'S CRUCIAL. BILL COSBY??? WHOOPI GOLDBERG, OPRAH, HELLO! But still write it even if no one will pay you and find a way to fund it with our help and get it made. WILL SOMEONE WRITE A TREATMENT ALREADY? Make it epic. Make it truthful. Make it hopeful. But first start with the premise, that "out of many we are one people." ONE, Goddamnit, ONE.

  • Disgusted | January 30, 2012 11:17 PM

    @ANOBSERVER - your post wreaks of insincerity and a patronizing attitude. Really? The only you have right is that Black women need to form their own independent industry, because they last people they can count on for support is Black men.

  • Oneofakind | January 30, 2012 10:24 PM

    It's not because she is light skinned Artbizzy. It is because she is not Nigerian. The fact that one of her parents is African doesn't mean that she is a good representation of the character she was chosen to play. FYI, her father is from Zimbabwe and just having a parent from the content of Africa means you are a good representation of a certain country in Africa. Here in the US, it seems that many people forget that Africa is a CONTINENT, made up of multiple countries, and not to mention the hundreds of cultures on the continent. It's not because she is light skinned. There are many light skinned actresses in Nigeria who would have been good for this role. That is why people are upset that a British Zimbabwean actress was chosen, and NOT a Nigerian one.

  • Chinyere | January 30, 2012 9:46 PM

    I don't know if you are african or even Nigerian for that matter, but it's not about her skin color or even being white. Its about a true representation of the character and being authentic as possible. It is 100% obvious that someone more true to the character i.e west african or nigerian, should be able to represent the character better. FYI if you have read the book you would know Olanna the main character is not dark skinned......

  • An Observer | January 30, 2012 2:33 PM

    Artbizzy, I feel your pain and frustration. You know man, that's what i've been saying. This issue seems to have opened doors about: what black women, alike, face everyday or how do black women really feel, really? There's a lot of social issues out there that I think has made Ashley make her petition. It may seem like the right thing for her to do, but it's not. But ladies, don't put all your frustrations, anger and a possible hint of jealousy on the casting of Thandie. I think Thandie is a darn-good actress. I think one of her earlier works: Flirting (might help you relate). She's a hard-working female actor and I think she deserves this role. Another point I agree on is - I think a script should be made about the struggles of black women, from all works of life and all spectrum of the color BLACK. If I could give a little advice - ladies, don't let anybody knock you down, because they don't know you, only GOD knows you. Do and be you and prove to all them haters that they were wrong about you! Be your own accomplished, working woman; form your own independent film industry and make films that best expresses how you feel and do what makes you HAPPY! coz that's all that matters.

  • This is why we can't have nice things | January 30, 2012 11:48 AMReply

    Leave it to black folks to slice and dice blackness. I wish Groupons was offering a deal on therapy. I'd gift it to half the people here.

  • uk west indian princess | January 31, 2012 9:46 PM

    so agree!

  • An Observer | January 30, 2012 2:09 PM

    LOL

  • Nkeon | January 30, 2012 11:31 AMReply

    Whilst I agree that Thandie Newton is an unrealistic choice - for either Olanna or Kainene, whichever one she is meant to play - I wonder why people are so surprised. After all, this is a film being made by Hollywood so of course those that already in that film industry will be the pick of their pool. If Chiwetel Ejiofor didn't happen to be a Nigerian actor with recognition by these directors then the role would've gone to someone even less likely. It amazes me that Nigeria now has a booming film industry that is one the fastest growing in the world, and yet none of the directors have thought to put classic literature from writers like Achebe, Soyinka, or Adichie, or even writers from other African countries like Kenya, into films. Their budgets may not compare to Hollywood, but it is not necessary for them to be big blockbusters. City of God told the story of a notorious gang chain in Brazil, using kids of the street as the actors and little to no special effects and the film has become a global success. And there are a number of other African films that have told more social-political conscious stories in their films, on even smaller budgets that Nollywood.
    As they say if you want your story told properly then you need to tell it yourself. If anything we should be petitioning Nollywood to take a break from Blackberry Babes and to consider turning some classic literature into good films.

  • An Observer | January 30, 2012 2:06 PM

    I concur. No need to criticize the director's choice of actor/actress. Like you said, even Chiwetel Ejiofor is in this film. Yes, there is a typecasting issue in Hollywood movies - but we still watch them. Personally I prefer Hollywood films anytime, any day to Nollywood films. I even watch Bollywood films, South African, French, Malaysian, Korean (the best) and Australian films (i'm a global viewer, I don't discriminate lol). Reason being, they have more depth in storytelling and cinematic photography. By casting Thandie, it seems the directors had a good reason for doing so. Actors do audition for film roles. So, there's a problem with casting actors/actresses in Hollywood due to appearance, but that's a problem Hollywood would have to sort out themselves - not in this film adaptation. I admire all black actresses alike and I hope sooner than later, the issue of typecast would be resolved. Let me just say this, when I watch movies, I'm not looking nor do I care whether the actor/actress fits the bill of the script (appearance-wise). If you can ACT, i'll be watching. The thing I like about watching films is how it makes me feel, I want to be bewildered, inspired, amazed, sad, happy, be in suspense, be hooked, thrilled and most of all feel GOOD - coz that movie was that good.
    If Igbo people are offended, please write to the Nollywood industry, telling them to write meaningful scripts as Nkeon said - do film adaptations and develop their industry. It would have been great if this film adaptation was made (acted and directed) by Nollywood industry - but it's not. By them making their own independent film, it might be more authentic to the feel and spirit of the novel, and that is something I will look forward to see - a meaningful film.

  • artbizzy | January 30, 2012 12:28 PM

    I totally agree. Not sure at all why anyone is surprised(not that I find Thandie to be a bad choice for this film but I'm sure some of the reasons mentioned here were involved in the decision) and I thought this site was for independent black film anyway. I mean I think critiquing Hollywood's choices is certainly a healthy thing but it goes overboard and becomes a waste of time and energy when that energy could be put into making our own films and tv shows.

  • BONDGIRL | January 30, 2012 11:13 AMReply

    I am in total solidarity of this petition. I have been wondering when people would put action to words, and I'm happy to see this woman is. I wish more AA women would boycott and protest, so we can stop the unrealistic casting of film and tv projects like Dysfunctional Friends, Sparkle, Single Ladies, etc etc etc. Thandie wouldn't even BE a choice, if filmmakers were casting brown-skinned women in enough roles to make them a viable "name actor". As I've said before to black women- write, produce, and direct. That is the only way to get your accurate portrayals out there. No one will do it for you, and certainly not prolifically. This is BS.

  • somethingtosay | January 30, 2012 10:45 AMReply

    @OGUN ~ why am i a "misinformed hater" when i have watched the short on youtube, and expressed an INFORMED opinion that biyi is unqualified to direct this film? give me more to go on, and i will gracefully agree. i think you ARE BIYI or one of his people and that is the only reason you dare defend this. be real, you know i am right!

  • OGUN | January 30, 2012 1:46 PM

    @SOMETHING TO SAY

    If I am Biyi, who are you? and what are your qualifications?

  • Anon | January 30, 2012 1:39 AMReply

    There is more to this issue than skin color and race. This is also about white hegemony and phenotype genocide.

    Igbo women come in a range of colors, yes. But Igbo women also have a certain subset of features, aside from skin color, specific to their ethnic group.

    I appreciate this petition because, the way things are socially engineered, the wide phenotype range that exists among blacks in the Western world, or blacks of European admixture/descent (non-sub-Saharan lineages), has evolved a people indifference to specific ethnic differences in looks among indigenous African people. It’s also contributed to the fact that there is a continued genocide of traits specific to our sub-Saharan African ancestors via the social perpetuation of what/who is to be desired aesthetically – i.e, how they align/measure along the rule of white-ness or European-ness.

    The issue of certain physical traits specific to our indigenous unmixed sub-Saharan ancestors start being bred out of a population of SSA descent is a recurring one. This has happened several times among African descended populations, based on the influences that deemed sub-Saharan African features undesirable and unacceptable.

    This was applied in Puerto Rico where most of the population bred lighter, and were happy to see a mass exodus of afro-Puerto Ricans during the mid-1900s. This is currently happening in the Dominican Republic in regards to hair texture – any hair texture close in proximity to the hair textures of indigenous un-mixed sub-Saharan peoples is shunned, regarded as ‘dirty’.

    This happens, globally, within the black race when people express that they wish to date non-Sub-Saharan descend people, or mixed people, because they desire a posterity with features that are less SSA – lighter skin color, ‘softer’ features, features more averaged between SSA and Nordic Caucasian bloodlines, silkier hair with looser curls, etc…

    There’s also the ideal, spanning across the entire aesthetic spectrum of the black race, that having European/Caucasian ancestry is more acceptable (desirable) than not having this ancestry. This can be seen in the minority, but prominent elite, European descended and identified mixed race population of Angola. While many individuals from this small ethnic group have physical traits close in proximity to the non-mixed sub-Saharan descended counterparts (brown/dark skin color, wide noses, curly and tightly coiled hair, etc…) it’s the fact that they have European ancestry/identity that makes them elite over the rest of the indigenous population. The same ideal was applied historically when African-American slaves repatriated to African, namely Liberia and Sierra Leone – the Americo-Liberians and Krio. The white Europeans used the close proximity of physical traits between the Africans of Westernized lineage/admixture and the indigenous un-mixed Africans as a way to penetrate the indigenous people, as they were not able to successfully do prior, by putting the new breed blacks in positions of authority over the non-colonized/non-penetrated blacks. The close proximity in phenotypes allowed for more social influence between the two groups, and the white colonialists used this to their advantage.

    We’ve, collectively, become passive in this continued genocide – the driving factors being commerce, industry and the all mighty dollar. Thus, people become blind to it in the name of social acceptance and mobility. The media is a major tool applied in conveying the social messages that influence the masses into these practices. Sure, a non-Igbo woman could play the role. But why does she have to be half white? Why is it that anytime Hollywood makes a movie about Africans they can’t be more authentic in their casting? What is wrong with the way non-mixed indigenous sub-Saharan African look that they can’t cast them to portray these parts? There are plenty of well trained, seasoned and talented un-mixed sub-Saharan Africans to choose from both in Black Hollywood, Nollywood, Gollywood, the Black Hollywood of South Africa…even in the Haitian movie industry. So, even among blacks WITH admixture, with European ancestry, and/or with Westernized lineages, why can’t someone with broader features that are closer in proximity to what actually Igbo people look like play this role? Hell, Australia’s movie and film industry has several season, trained and talent Aboriginal actors as well.

    This genocide of SSA people has not ended. We need to start speaking out. People need to wake-up.

  • Anon | January 30, 2012 1:38 AMReply

    There is more to this issue than skin color and race. This is also about white hegemony and phenotype genocide.

    Igbo women come in a range of colors, yes. But Igbo women also have a certain subset of features, aside from skin color, specific to their ethnic group.

    I appreciate this petition because, the way things are socially engineered, the wide phenotype range that exists among blacks in the Western world, or blacks of European admixture/descent (non-sub-Saharan lineages), has evolved a people indifference to specific ethnic differences in looks among indigenous African people. It’s also contributed to the fact that there is a continued genocide of traits specific to our sub-Saharan African ancestors via the social perpetuation of what/who is to be desired aesthetically – i.e, how they align/measure along the rule of white-ness or European-ness.

    The issue of certain physical traits specific to our indigenous unmixed sub-Saharan ancestors start being bred out of a population of SSA descent is a recurring one. This has happened several times among African descended populations, based on the influences that deemed sub-Saharan African features undesirable and unacceptable.

    This was applied in Puerto Rico where most of the population bred lighter, and were happy to see a mass exodus of afro-Puerto Ricans during the mid-1900s. This is currently happening in the Dominican Republic in regards to hair texture – any hair texture close in proximity to the hair textures of indigenous un-mixed sub-Saharan peoples is shunned, regarded as ‘dirty’.

    This happens, globally, within the black race when people express that they wish to date non-Sub-Saharan descend people, or mixed people, because they desire a posterity with features that are less SSA – lighter skin color, ‘softer’ features, features more averaged between SSA and Nordic Caucasian bloodlines, silkier hair with looser curls, etc…

    There’s also the ideal, spanning across the entire aesthetic spectrum of the black race, that having European/Caucasian ancestry is more acceptable (desirable) than not having this ancestry. This can be seen in the minority, but prominent elite, European descended and identified mixed race population of Angola. While many individuals from this small ethnic group have physical traits close in proximity to the non-mixed sub-Saharan descended counterparts (brown/dark skin color, wide noses, curly and tightly coiled hair, etc…) it’s the fact that they have European ancestry/identity that makes them elite over the rest of the indigenous population. The same ideal was applied historically when African-American slaves repatriated to African, namely Liberia and Sierra Leone – the Americo-Liberians and Krio. The white Europeans used the close proximity of physical traits between the Africans of Westernized lineage/admixture and the indigenous un-mixed Africans as a way to penetrate the indigenous people, as they were not able to successfully do prior, by putting the new breed blacks in positions of authority over the non-colonized/non-penetrated blacks. The close proximity in phenotypes allowed for more social influence between the two groups, and the white colonialists used this to their advantage.

    We’ve, collectively, become passive in this continued genocide – the driving factors being commerce, industry and the all mighty dollar. Thus, people become blind to it in the name of social acceptance and mobility. The media is a major tool applied in conveying the social messages that influence the masses into these practices. Sure, a non-Igbo woman could play the role. But why does she have to be half white? Why is it that anytime Hollywood makes a movie about Africans they can’t be more authentic in their casting? What is wrong with the way non-mixed indigenous sub-Saharan African look that they can’t cast them to portray these parts? There are plenty of well trained, seasoned and talented un-mixed sub-Saharan Africans to choose from both in Black Hollywood, Nollywood, Gollywood, the Black Hollywood of South Africa…even in the Haitian movie industry. So, even among blacks WITH admixture, with European ancestry, and/or with Westernized lineages, why can’t someone with broader features that are closer in proximity to what actually Igbo people look like play this role? Hell, Australia’s movie and film industry has several season, trained and talent Aboriginal actors as well.

    This genocide of SSA people has not ended. We need to start speaking out. People need to wake-up.

  • somethingtosay | January 29, 2012 8:52 PMReply

    @ OGUN~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubQ3daH876c ~ is this the link you meant to post as an example of biyi's work? a 6 minute film (with 4.5 minutes of repetitive framing) posted on YOUTUBE? did this short ever show at any legit festival? even as an example of his writing skills, this is lacking. how could you possibly get from this short to the magnitude of HOAYS (half of a yellow sun)? it is impossible. fellow readers of S&A, please watch the short and tell me if you think this director can handle the width, depth, and breadth of HOAYS. i am very curious about other opinions... but if this is your sole shining example of why this "director" should direct HOAYS, you should NOT use it as such, ever again ~ if only for the good of your own argument. even without HOAYS hanging in the balance, this piece is beneath par. but lets hear from others... please post.

  • OGUN | January 30, 2012 10:06 AM

    You are a misinformed hater.

  • somethingtosay | January 29, 2012 7:31 PMReply

    @ OGUN ~we would already know if this film was worth watching (plus your link is funky).... this writer has been fired from several major projects (including steven mcqueen's FELA)....
    and this SHORT film has never been in any festival, or showcase, or showing, or...?
    why would an author want to take on a contemporary's work as his directorial debut...?)

  • somethingtosay | January 29, 2012 4:54 PMReply

    although i firmly agree that neither her spirit, her looks, or her acting ability give me confidence that thandie newton can portray this strong, determined, evolving African woman, this project has a much bigger white elephant in the room than her: who amongst us here, has ever heard of the slated director biyi bandele? yes, he has written novels and plays to some faint acclaim, but has he yet directed a dog food commercial, a music video, a television episode, or a series ~ let alone an adaptation of this magnitude? this film has the potential to be a ground-breaking portrayal of African history in cinema, as was the novel in literature. i am concerned that a novel of this importance, of this sensitive and crucial subject matter (made even more timely by the slaughter, religious and tribal division taking place today)~ is being handed to a non-director who has ZERO screen experience. his being selected to direct the film is the obvious result of his long-time intimate relationship with the producer, not because of a proven track record or any past success. this mis-direction is akin to the question of jonathan demme directing beloved, or steven spielberg directing the color purple ~ and without doubt, those are two of the best, but we still questioned their ability to bring innate authenticity to the story .... yet, here we have african directors who actually make movies being over-looked by blatant nepotism. biyi bandele is by no means qualified to play the role of director of half of a yellow sun ~ this material shouldn't be left in the hands of amateurs.

  • mii | February 25, 2012 9:50 AM

    dear Somethingtosay, this attack on Biyi Bandele is not founded as far as i am concerned. I'm sure the Producers have their reason for choosing him to direct this movie. And i also wonder exactly what you have to gain or loose from Biyi directing it? Are you one of the investors? Are you one of the producers? Don't think so. I'm sure all you'll contribute to this is the money u spend to go see it at the cinema and maybe buy the dvd when it comes out.

    There's always a first time. Spielberg has a first movie too. IF Biyi got the job because he's close to the producer, that's his luck and an opportunity for him to show what he's made of. An example of divine favour that we all pray for everyday. I rest my case.

  • OGUN | January 29, 2012 5:51 PM

    @SOMETHING TO SAY

    Here is a short film directed by Biyi Bandele: http://youtu.be/ubQ3daH876c

    Get your facts straight.

  • Cherish | January 29, 2012 11:56 AMReply

    Oh ladies, stop whining. I'm sure if Boris Kudjoe or Shemar Moore were cast as African kings in an upcoming Hollywood film, Black men would NEVER EVER complain or have anything negative to say about that. Black is Black, it's all interchangeable. The Black men here would be COMPLETELY supportive of these, and brothas like Observer would be the first to congratulate them.

  • John | January 29, 2012 11:43 AMReply

    Oh, I love black on black racism. That's wonderful! [sarcasm] And just what do they hope to accomplish by demanding all Igbo actors? The film won't get made without stars. Not unless it has a director like Angelina Jolie who managed to get an all local cast for "In the Land of Blood & Honey"- although that has failed at the box office.

  • cm | February 12, 2012 3:23 PM

    John, what you seem to fail to realize is that you are privileging American-known stars over other global star systems. The Nigerian film industry, popularly known as Nollywood, actually produces over a thousand feature-length films a year--more films than Hollywood--and has stars who are more well known in most of Africa and parts of the Caribbean than Hollywood stars. So, basically, the people the producers want to sell the film to is an American audience. If they were concerned about a Nigerian audience (which they should be for a film made from a classic of Nigerian literature), an African audience, or even a larger African diaspora audience, then a Nollywood star could certainly sell the film on a global market.

  • An Observer | January 29, 2012 3:03 PM

    thank you John, i don't get it. It's just a film that can be re-made over and over again. So the fact that there aren't any Igbo actors in this film, doesn't mean there can't be another film with Igbo actors.

  • Nemesis | January 28, 2012 10:22 PMReply

    Someone has pointed this out already, but the Nigerian-Biafran war wasn't about Muslims vs Christians. It was about the SE wanting to secede from Nigeria. The idea as for Southern Nigeria to secede from Northern Nigeria but the West (which is mainly Christian with a Muslim minority) chickened out at the last minute, remaining on side of Nigeria. So it can't really be be considered a Muslim vs Christian fight. Also, while Igbos made up the majority, not all Biafrans are/were Igbo. My parents aren't Igbo, but my father, as a young student in Britain at the time, demonstrated and protested on behalf of Biafra, so neither can the war be described as a Muslim vs. Igbo fight, because shed-loads of non-Igbos fought and died on the Biafran side.

  • BluTopaz | January 28, 2012 9:22 PMReply

    I am not Nigerian so I don't know what Igbo features look like, but I will reply to the argument about the need to cast name actors. Do you find it odd how Hollywood has no problem casting obscure, almost unknown White girls for flicks--Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one example and there are plenty others. So if colorism is not an issue, why couldn't the same be done in this instance? And an amen to the comments about when has Thandie put butts in seats? I have heard people say the same about Sophie in Hotel Rwanda, that she does not look like the ethnicity she was portraying. In a White film, you would never see a dark haired, olive skinned actress portray a Swede, but it's ok for African women characters (when they're called to be the central love interest, wife, or beautiful) as anything but dark brown with the same features as the majority. It's BEYOND messed up when even African woman characters are cast with bi-racial or light skinned women with European features, such as in this case. And it's always women characters where this convo takes place. Anyone who wants to think differently is blind.

  • Chinyere | January 30, 2012 10:02 PM

    Thanks for a sensible comment.....for me It's not quite about the shade of her skin or her features. They are plenty of light skinned igbo women and other light skinned though not quite as light like myself for instance. For me its about making the film as authentic as possible, and thandie to me seems the least bit african. Nigerians have a very "livley, strong" character. And Thandie doesn't seem to be the right person for this film.

  • BluTopaz | January 28, 2012 9:34 PM

    Meant to add, it's not just hollywood where i have seen this with African films. In Viva Riva where the love interest was a good six shades lighter (with a looser hair curl pattern, of course) than all the dark black male characters. I know there are lightskinned Africans who are not bi-racial, however it's interesting how this minority would be cast as the female center in an African film.

  • Boomslang | January 28, 2012 5:03 PMReply

    she looks like Rashida Jones here.

  • jess | January 28, 2012 3:35 PMReply

    Thandie Newton get's my vote!!! Give's me a reason to want to see the movie.

  • carlton jordan | January 28, 2012 3:31 PMReply

    when has thandie ever opened a film? it is not like she is a big box office draw, so they couldve cast this differently and correctly and still had a great film that no one will see anyway.

  • Dizzle | January 28, 2012 11:08 AMReply

    My suggestion of Sophie Okonedo over Thandie Newton has nothing to do with skin color and more of an acting preference. Someone mentioned somewhere within the first 35 comments that Newton hasn't played a lot of challenging roles. And that, I agree. Sophie has played a South African (Skin) and a Rwandan (Hotel Rwanda) pretty convincingly. She and Chiwetel Ejiofor have an acting connection (Dirty Pretty Things and Tsunami: The Aftermath) that would play very well into developing their roles on this movie.

    My mother served as a nurse in the Biafra war and still won't talk about the experiences she faced. Still, reading Adichie's version was like watching the Roots: it was the closest thing to understanding what my ancestors went through. For me, it's just about the visuals. I don't expect Genevieve or some other Nollywood actress to play the lead in a Hollywood-backed movie. But they could play other supporting roles that could give them more global recognition.

    Newton just isn't it for me because I just haven't seen her cast in major roles without a sexpot theme. I'm OK with Caroline Chikezie as well, but I'd make the same argument about Carmen Ejogo; I haven't seen her pull through a challenging role like this.

  • mii | February 25, 2012 9:56 AM

    Come on people! Enough with this online casting already! Do you know is Sophie was approached and she declined? Do you know if Caroline Chikezie is fully booked for something else? It's just simple common sense not to make all these comments unless you know for sure what is happening in production and the reason behind each decision.

  • Logic | January 28, 2012 10:35 AMReply

    I'm not going to sign any petition to dictate how people realize their art. I'd rather just make my own. If I made a petition for every drunk or drugged out "fallen" black woman in need of a good man and/or Jesus featured in a Tyler Perry movie, I'd never have any time for anything else. If you don't like it, don't support it. Simple.

  • Vanessa | January 28, 2012 8:05 AMReply

    I'm going to agree with Ashley Akunna on this. Nothing against Thandie but she seems miscast here for obvious reasons. That's all I'll say about that.

  • An Observer | January 28, 2012 6:58 AMReply

    Thirdly, race is a general issue that cannot be boiled down to a film - it's very tricky and controversial. We need to look outside that sort of prospective and consider other factors when it comes to making a movie. You can be as authentic as you want but only to an extent. There's only so much you can do; that can be done - look at the bigger picture! Therefore, Ashley by you making a petition or having an issue with the casting of a particular actress to a particular role seems to me to be ridiculous; as I said it's immaterial and not important - performance is all that matters.
    This leads me to the conclusion that I also agree with Omonaija and Ogechi. No group of people or race can look exactly the same, but they can have common features; if the filmmakers can cast an actress that has those common features, then there should be no problems. There are Igbo people, but not all Igbo people look alike; yes, there are common features, but really are we all the same. Like most countries, there are different ethnic groups. In Nigeria, we just happen to have a lot; there are 4 major ethnic groups: Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Fulani; while Edo, Tiv, Ibibio, Ijaw and Kanuri are examples of some minority ethnic groups; plus there are over 250 languages spoken in Nigeria (Wikipedia states over 500 spoken languages); Nigeria is a federation and the constitution promotes free movement, connecting/mixing the different tribes/ethnic group to make Nigeria a stronger, more united nation, hence eradicating any discrimination, social tensions within the people of Nigeria. I happen to be from two tribes, Edo and Igbo. But I think the majority of Igbo's are a 100% Igbos. Therefore, there can be no exact depiction of an Igbo person, just the common traits, characteristics, mannerisms, behaviors that can be portrayed in film. If Thandie Newton can make it happen, just as Forrest Whittaker did as the Zimbabwean dictator, Mugabge or Morgan Freeman as South Africa's first black President, Nelson Mandela, then I say 'go for it'; because if she pulls it off it could be the climax of her career and she may gain even more critical acclamation for a job well done. I bet if this movie finally comes out and you watch it, Ashley, you might be astonished by Thandie Newton's portrayal of an Igbo woman and you'll be eating your words and petition. Just appreciate this film for what it is, I bet the author herself is ecstatic that Thandie Newton is playing the lead role that's based off her novel. We don't know how the movie will turn out, but we hope for the best.
    It is a good thing that this is happening, a great honor to be making a film based off a novel written by a Nigerian about Nigeria. I support this project a 100% and I hope that they do a good job. Nigeria needs some recognition in something other than sports or music. I think this film will shed light to the fact that Nigeria is a great nation, with a rich history, story-telling, diverse groups of people, languages and religion, music, sports and fashion; all thanks to the author, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie that wrote this fantastic novel (which I will read sometime soon!) about a major issue - the Biafra Civil War that happened in Nigeria. It will not only shed light, but also, I hope reveal the major issues that occurs in Nigeria, back then in the late 1960s. We are not a perfect or particularly great nation in the sense of governance and basic fundamental rights and many other serious issues, which would need it's own 100 novels to depict. I hope the outcome of this film adaptation is that it illustrates those issues that happened in the late-60s in Nigeria and be as true to the novel as it possible can.
    Let's start talking about other issues that are more important than race and your personal dissatisfaction with the casting of Thandie Newton's new film role. I think it's selfish and meaningless to petition when it's obvious that you are contradicting yourself. The proof is in the pudding - the acclamation's of many prominent actors/actresses both black and white that have portrayed characters that they are by no means racially, biologically or even geographically related to, but they pull it off - Why? Because it is their career; their job; it's what they're trained to do for a living; they are professionals and performers - Base your decision/petition on that and not racial features!

  • An Observer | January 28, 2012 6:57 AMReply

    Secondly, if this was a film produced and directed by Nigerian filmakers ie Nollywood then it's likely that they would cast an actress that is closer to the character depicted in the book. But it's not, it's a Hollywood film. Ashley, you should be glad for your country-woman: firstly, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel 'Half of a Yellow Sun, is a critically acclaimed book that have won an international award, the Orange Prize for Fiction; secondly, they've cast a British-Nigerian actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who might I say is a darn good actor; thirdly, Hollywood wants to make this 'Nigerian novel' into a movie - it's amazing that they even considered doing it. I'm glad they are making it into a movie because I too am a Nigerian and I think this is true recognition of our talents, our capability - it's an honor! simple as; Fourthly, not only does the novel, but now the coming of this film adaptation, raises awareness about the Biafran War 1967 -1970. I am a Nigerian and half Igbo and I wasn't aware of it, I recently realized that my grandfather fought and died in the civil war. I knew that the Igbo people wanted to leave Nigeria and have their own country, but I didn't know that the civil war was between the Hausa and Igbo people and I didn't know that over 3 million Igbo people died, i mean 3 million people. What happened? Now, that Ashley is what you should talk about not about the fact that the actress not Nigerian or Igbo to play the lead role - now that's hypocritical not to talk about racist.

  • Nemesis | January 28, 2012 10:45 PM

    Actually, it's not a Hollywood film, it's a British independent film with some Nigerian money promised (not sure if that money's in place yet), so all the more reason to try harder on the casting. And Thandie Newton is hardly a huge box office draw, nor a brilliant actress.

  • An Observer | January 28, 2012 6:56 AMReply

    Emmanuel, I agree with you. I think Ashley Akunna's petition is baseless after reading your comments because I understand what you mean.

    Listen, Half of a Yellow Sun is a movie that needs funding to be made. In order to do so, you need anything and everything from finance, great script, location, crew, producers, directors and actors alike - if you've got a good, possibly excellent foundation, you may end up making a good, hopefully a great film. This film, which is an adaptation of an award-winning novel, could possibly get great reviews and acclamation and even end up winning awards, because it's a good movie that makes sense on all levels. Hence, having an actress like Thandie Newton is a good thing, because she is talented and well-known. This in turn will get people more interested in seeing the film - to a wider audience and to those who didn't know they were making this film, will now know - they might even want to see it and then recommend it to their friends and family and it grows from there. Let's not forget, this is the movie industry - do you think films just get done out of thin air? It takes, time, money, sacrifice, workforce, marketing to loads of audience who are interested and would like to see the film because by selling tickets, you make your money back, hopefully with profit if it's that good of a film. It's a business. Therefore, factors like authenticity, race are immaterial. What I mean by immaterial is - the filmmakers aren't going to go to the exact locations in Nigeria where the books were based to be true to the story (they could do that if they have the funding to do so and that would be great); they're also not going to cast a character that is exactly based off the book - an igbo woman with the same features and characteristics as described in the book - it's impossible! To make this film a reality, you would not only need an actress that looks like the character in the book but since this is a business, and acting is a job, you'll also need to cast someone that can ACT.

    The question you should be asking is (as a filmmaker): Is she an actress that can ACT, is well-known and able to sell the performance in order to make money back? And the questions you (the audience) should ask is: Is her performance believable; does she stay true to the character in the novel; ultimately can she ACT? To my knowledge, no such actress exists in Nigeria, but I may be wrong. It would be pointless to get an Igbo woman that fits the description as illustrated in the novel but cannot act to save her life. For me, it all comes down to the acting performance - if Thandie Newton can pull it off, congratulations to her! I may support her to win some huge award. If she doesn't succeed, the film might be a flop, but then that all depends on the supporting actors/actresses, editing, picture or film locations, and production and direction of the film! By involving race and authenticity, it makes this discussion controversial. I mean, it's a problem that race is still a problem, but you need to consider other factors. The movie industry is a risky business. You have to sacrifice a little to get results ie the roles played by Forrest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Sophie Okonedo, even Angelina Jolie in 'A Mighty Heart', Dominic Copper in 'The Devil's Double' - I mean, have you seen this movie - this guy, the movie is brilliant. He's an English actor playing the role of Saddam Hussein's son's double - not only did he portray the double of an Iraqi dictator's son, Uday Hussein, he also played the role of Uday Hussein. I think I've made my point - which is, it's all about the performance, not race, not authenticity. Sacrifies have to be made to get results. If Thandie Newton is the best person to play the lead role - let her do it! That's what she's trained her whole life to do - she's an actor.

    Let's not discriminate because she's mixed race or light-skinned. It does not matter - Ashley Akunna, you should be happy the role was given to a black person; there's no need to dissect her origins. We are all humans! Plus there's something called make-up/special effects artists - it's there job to make people and things look authentic. We should be supporting Thandie Newton and any other black actor/actress that gets cast in films, movies, tv-shows/series alike, irrespective of their racial background. It is not the actor/actress's fault that they were typecast; but the ignorance of the casting director/director (whoever makes the decision) as well as other reasons (as stated above) that makes a casting director/director cast an actor in a certain role, I think. Stop hating. I mean Ashley, I understand were you're coming from - but ultimately, if you're not the casting director nor the director/producer of the movie (the decision maker), you cannot decide who can or cannot play a role. Most adaptations of a novel to film aren't exactly as it's portrayed in the novel ie Twilight (like seriously, not that I care), Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, the Lovely Bones, etc (I could go on forever!)

  • T'Challa | January 28, 2012 4:13 AMReply

    Light is right... at least in Hollywood. To hell with them, support independent film.

  • OMONAIJA | January 27, 2012 8:50 PMReply

    The Igbo can not be trusted. Do not sign Ashley Akunna's petition. She is using this controversy for personal gain.

  • LeonRaymond | January 27, 2012 6:49 PMReply

    This is a tough one, very sticky but I understand it, so it's like this, we here in America have been fighting for ever for authentic depictions of African Americans in films, there have been countless scripts that were orginally a Black character study that was re-written by Hollywood to end up being white, we get so angry when they do it to us time and time again, there is a story that was sold to Hollywood recently about 3 men and their seedy exploits during Hurricane Katrina and they were all Black, the story is powerful riviting and now I hear , the characters have been re-written to be White, and what is sad is we , many of us will never know but it is criminal artistically , and theme wise, we never really got a chance to protest that one, and all of us will be up in Arms when Angelina Jolie stands in front of the camera soon to play Cleopatra, look , we have been fighting for against this for so long maybe we have lost sight of the original battle, but if they want this to be authentic then I can not Blame them, get a large actor in name for some of the other parts and do some creative casting but let those parts be portrayed then by representives of who they are turly supposed to be, they are fostering a damn good industry over there , that should be able to embrace our films , so why not embrace their struggle for acurate cinema. And was it not Thandie who was outraged about Jolie being considered to play Cleopatra, The Chickens do come home to Roost!

  • lightisrightRIGHT? | January 27, 2012 6:37 PMReply

    Show me an instance of the reverse situation: one in which a scripted, or written female character is light or white and instead a black woman darker than the original intended hue ends up being cast? I'm genuinely asking because it seems that so many of you are missing the point: YES we know there are Igbo, Nigerian, African women of Thandie's hue and with her features--the majority of them are biracial.

    The question is: would some of you conditioned slaves ever be aware enough to acknowledge that shadism is alive and well in cinema? WE, black folk are just as guilty as our European counterparts of abetting this thriving system of condemning dark skinned beauty. Some of you are so blinded by complacence that you can't even acknowledge it exists and dare I say YOU conditioned black folk are much more dangerous than those who control the puppetry because you continue to support the system in droves--

    Paula Patton, Thandie Newton, Halle Berry et. al should not be maligned for being light and beautiful: but they also shouldn't be maintained as THE standard of black female beauty.

  • Ogechi | January 27, 2012 4:07 PMReply

    This protest is stupid. I am 100% Igbo and I am the same complexion as Thandie Newton.

  • Anon | January 30, 2012 1:05 AM

    There is more to this issue than skin color and race. This is also about white hegemony and phenotype genocide. Igbo women come in a range of colors, yes. But Igbo women also have a certain subset of features, aside from skin color, specific to their ethnic group.

    I appreciate this protest because, the way things are socially engineered, the wide phenotype range of blacks, or blacks of European admixture/descent (non-sub-Saharan lineages), has evolved a people indifference to the fact that genocide traits specific to our sub-Saharan African ancestors continues via the social perpetuation of what/who is to be desired aesthetically - i.e, how they align/measure along the rule of white-ness or European-ness.

    When certain physical traits specific to our indigenous unmixed sub-Saharan ancestors start being breed out of a population of SSA descent, people don't make an issue of it. This has happened several times among African descended populations, based on the influences that deemed sub-Saharan African features undesirable and unacceptable. This was applied in Puerto Rico where most of the population bred lighter, and were happy to see a mass exodus of afro-Puerto Ricans during the mid-1900s. This is currently happening in the Dominican Republic in regards to hair texture - any hair texture close in proximity to the hair textures of indigenous un-mixed sub-Saharan peoples is shunned, regarded as 'dirty'. This happens through the black world when people express that they wish to date non-Sub-Saharan descend people, or mixed people, because they desire a posterity with features that are less SSA - lighter skin color, 'softer' features, features more averaged between SSA and Nordic Caucasian bloodlines, silkier hair with looser curls, etc...

    There's also the ideal, which spans across the entire aesthetic spectrum of the black race, that having European/Caucasian ancestry is more acceptable (desirable) than not having this ancestry. This can be seen in the minority, but prominent elite, European descended and identified mixed race population of Angola. While many individuals from this small ethnic group have physical traits close in proximity to the non-mixed sub-Saharan descended counterparts (brown/dark skin color, wide noses, curly and tightly coiled hair, etc...) it's the fact that they have European ancestry/identity that makes them elite over the rest of the indigenous population.

    The same ideal was applied historically when African-American slaves repatriated to African, namely Liberia and Sierra Leone - the Americo-Liberians and Krio. The white Europeans used the close proximity of physical traits between the Africans of Westernized lineage/admixture and the indigenous un-mixed Africans as a way to penetrate the indigenous people, as they were not able to successfully do prior, by putting the new breed blacks in positions of authority over the non-colonized/non-penetrated blacks. The close proximity in phenotypes allowed for more social influence between the two groups, and the white colonialists used this to their advantage.

    We've, collectively, become passive in this continued genocide - the driving factors being commerce, industry and the all mighty dollar. Thus, people become blind to it in the name of social acceptance and mobility. The media is a major tool applied in conveying the social messages that influence the masses into these practices.

    Sure, a non-Igbo woman could play the role. But why does she have to be half white?

    Why is it that anytime Hollywood makes a movie about Africans they can't be more authentic in their casting?

    What is wrong with the way non-mixed indigenous sub-Saharan African look that they can't cast them to portray these parts?

    There are plenty of well trained, seasoned and talented un-mixed sub-Saharan Africans to choose from both in Black Hollywood, Nollywood, Gollywood, the Black Hollywood of South Africa...even in the Haitian movie industry. So, even among blacks WITH admixture, with European ancestry, and/or with Westernized lineages, why can't someone with broader features that are closer in proximity to what actually Igbo people look like play this role? Hell, Austria's movie and film industry has several season, trained and talent Aboriginal actors as well.

    This genocide of SSA people has not ended. We need to start speaking out. People need to wake-up.

  • whatever! | January 28, 2012 3:18 PM

    Is that down to bleaching as Africans are known to bleach their skin. Thandie should not be playing this role shis is half African end of.

  • hmmm | January 28, 2012 10:23 AM

    Ogechi you be light as white, but Thandi has European features. Igbo women do not have european features You know why? Because they are african!

  • Kay Montano | January 28, 2012 9:11 AM

    Ogechi, thanks for your WISDOM. The world is understandably sensitive & has a lot to learn regarding skin colour but Thandie will do an amazing job and is intelligent enough to raise a lot of awareness re ALL of the above. Don't get hooked into 'divide+rule'. Women of colour (light, medium, dark if you INSIST on pointless distinctions) need to STICK TOGETHER to be powerful voices. I suggest all who disagree with her casting WATCH her TEDTALK 'Embracing otherness, embracing myself" and hear what she says about 'identification with the self'. www.ted.com/talks/thandie_newton_embracing_otherness_embracing_myself.html

  • Lightisrightright? | January 27, 2012 6:38 PM

    Congratulations. Now when you go back to Nigeria (assuming you've ever been) are you in the majority or the minority?

  • other song | January 27, 2012 4:04 PMReply

    I'm Igbo, and frankly Thandie Newton can play Igbo based on looks alone. There are a lot of light skinned Igbo people, so the skin argument is f*cking stupid. and you're excluding other Blacks from acting jobs based on skin? lmao. wow. The BIG question is: can Thandie act? Personally I'm not a fan. And if she's going to mangle the Igbo and over-act through it all, I'd rather they find someone else. It's all about who will do a good job. I don't care if it's some Nollywood actress, a Hollywood actress or whoever, especially if she can't act to save her life. Again, ITS ALL ABOUT WHO WILL PULL IT OFF BEST. that's all you should care about.

  • Ashley Akunna | January 27, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    Hello All,

    My name is Ashley Akunna, and I am the Igbo woman who started this petition. This petition is about authenticity. Igbo people come in all complexions. However, the majority are dark brown in complexion. Thandie Newton is a wonderfully talented actress. However, I would be lying to you, if I said I know anyone in my village who looks like her. I have traveled all across Nigeria, from Abuja to Calibar, and Thandie Newton is not an accurate portrayal of what Igbo woman look like. Not in the slightest. Hollywood is known for giving preferential treatment to black female actors of a lighter hue. And that is definitely being displayed here with the casting of Thandie Newton. 365 days out of the year Africans are portrayed in media as some of the darkest people you will ever come across. However, when a role requires a beautiful Igbo actress, they want to cast a bi-racial woman who looks nothing like the people she is supposed to be playing. That is nonsense. Of course I would love an Igbo woman to have this part. But frankly any African woman who fits the description of what an AUTHENTIC IGBO WOMAN looks like will fit the bill. Don’t give me a watered down version of my ancestors and accept me to be happy. It is an insult to Igboland. FULL STOP. Also, this petition is not against bi-racial people, please understand that. However, Igbo people are not bi-racial, we are black. Can Whoopi Goldberg play Lena Horne? I don’t think so. It is about authenticity. People seem to be happy just because they are making a movie about Nigeria, and not concerned with how history is being skewed. Be careful. Because in the future you are going to have Kirsten Dunst playing Harriet Tubman, and black people will be saying, “at least they are showing us in a positive light.” But the gist is, they won’t be showing YOU.

  • mii | February 25, 2012 10:07 AM

    Dear Ashley, I'd ask you just one question.

    1. Are the Igbo people funding the movie?

    If they are not then whoever is funding has the RIGHT to cast whoever they feel works for them. The movies is targetting the whole world and not just Igbo people or Nigeria.

    Getting funding for a movie is not child's play. So i suggest that if you are really sooo passionate about this there are still several other books about Igbo people that you can source funding for and do the way you want rather than attacking someone else's efforts at making a movie.

  • Geetie Malo | January 28, 2012 12:43 PM

    Ashley Akunna needs to sit down. You obviously have personal issues with your own image, if this one casting turns your whole life upside down. You need Jesus. Many of us are praying for you.

  • HMMM | January 28, 2012 10:27 AM

    This was written by someone on the petition:

    As an Associate Professor of Design Anthropology, I teach about the importance of accurate representation in the world of design and media. The miscasting of a performer to lighten the skin color and hair texture of a positive representation of a peoples perpetuates racism.

  • Ashley Akunna | January 27, 2012 6:28 PM

    You are blind to what is going on in reference to dark skinned black women. I can not help you. Maybe you will see one day. I really hope all men who think like you have dark skinned daughters, then when what I am talking about comes from the lips of your own seed, maybe you will get it. In the meantime, google Igbo women, and then google Thandie Newton. It's that simple.

  • Emmanuel | January 27, 2012 5:06 PM

    I feel where you're coming from, and I agree that there is no need to debate. But don't forget that this is only art. And this is only one film. If you're truly concerned about the global self esteem of black girls, you might consider petitioning the barrage of misleading images that they face daily, like music videos and songs on the radio that objectify some black women by labeling and praising them for being "redbones" and "yellowbones". That's more of a problem than this one film. You raise the issue of authenticity, with regard to the casting of Thandie Newton. But was authenticity an issue when Denzel Washington was cast as Malcolm X? I think most viewers were able to see past the fact that Denzel didn't look exactly like Malcolm, because they knew it was only art. I doubt that Spike Lee first sought out a light-skinned Muslim actor who could bring authenticity to the role. And I'm sure the global self-esteem of most light-skinned blacks was left intact, despite the lack authenticity of that casting. Again, I feel where you're coming from. But the filmmakers behind "Half Of A Yellow Sun" also have a right to make their art the way they seem fit. The beautiful thing is that we're not obligated to agree with it or support it, if we so choose.

  • Ashley Akunna | January 27, 2012 4:17 PM

    You are entitled to your beliefs. But I have been sharing this information to Igbos, Hausas, and Yorubas of all ages, and they think this casting is ridiculous. I stand with my people. I am not here to debate.

  • Ogechi | January 27, 2012 4:12 PM

    Ashley this petition is stupid.

  • Emmanuel | January 27, 2012 3:45 PMReply

    I probably shouldn't be, but I'm surprised that this has become such a big deal. I mean, Thandie may not necessarily be the best actress for the role; but not because she's biracial, or because she isn't Nigerian. She's never denied her African roots, as far as I know. And I think many of you who are complaining would prefer her over someone who might be labeled "not African", whatever that means. Some people are saying that Sophie Okonedo should be considered, but where was the complaint when we were rooting for her to win an Academy Award for playing a Rwandan? We didn't get upset when Forest Whitaker won his Oscar for playing a Ugandan, did we? Why, then, are we trying to get our sister fired from a job, just because she looks a certain way, or comes from an African nation other than the one depicted in he film? This is self-hate at its finest. Africa is made up of many different people, with many different looks. It would be one thing if Newton claimed her English ancestry, and denied her African side; but that isn't the case. And like I said before, Newton may not be the best actress for the job-- true (Lord knows she needs to expand her repertoire of role choices). But let's be fair here. Her performance surely won't be as bad as Jennifer Hudson's "Winnie Mandela" portrayal. Finally, let me end by saying that funding and attaching a big name to the project surely played a role in the casting. The fact is, we all want to see the film done our way, but without name talent, it likely wouldn't get made. And even if it did manage to get funding without name talent, it likely wouldn't see widespread screenings and would be in and out of some fancy-pants theatre before you or I could even find it in the movie listings. So let's think twice about trying to get someone fired from a job, based on mere disdain for, and disapproval of, outward appearance. Let's leave that foolishness to the enemy, since they seem to do it so well.

  • Anissa New-Walker | January 27, 2012 5:08 PM

    As a man, sorry for the assumption Emmanuel, you truly don't get it. Ashley Akunna couldn't be more correct in her assessment of Hollywood and their disdain for darker skinned actresses. It is self pride that brown and dark women want to see themselves on the big screen and not just the washed out versions of ourselves. If the character is an Igbo woman who is brown-skinned, then the casting should be so. Ashley is also right, if Derek Jeter were to play an African in a film, that would be ridiculous too. You, Emmanuel don't get it and don't care because you have been suckered into Hollywood's crazy idea of how African and/or African American women should look on the big screen - pale faced, just like them. I feel sorry for you.

  • Ashley Akunna | January 27, 2012 3:59 PM

    Produce a picture of an Igbo woman who looks like Thandie Newton. This is not self hate. Self hate is allowing this colorism nonsense to continue just to have a movie made. Even with the film Hotel Rwanda, Sophie Okonedo does not look like a Rwandanese woman. Not in the slightest. But again, Hollywood had to cast a black woman to fit their image of what is beautiful, and we accept it. This is damaging us, and creating self hate. Would you be okay with someone who looks like Derek Jeter playing an African man in a major film? Because that is the parallel. Think of what this is doing to the global self esteem to black girls.

  • Dozie | January 27, 2012 3:09 PMReply

    people she is good to carry the role, i'm igbo i wasn't even born during the war, but i understand the pain. she dont need to be igbo to understand the pain, all she need is true story .read about the war, i bet you if she can follow the real biafra story on www.biafraland.com or google biafra or youtube it, then she will understand teh script better and come out with the best of her, to me she is good to go.
    i will say one thing to her . all "this land once so full of laughter and song is sad today, who will rescue the land, when will her Moses come? May God soon send peace,half of a yellow

  • Sugabelly | January 27, 2012 2:05 PMReply

    Sorry but Thandie is an awful choice. There are MANY talented Igbo actresses in Hollywood that could play the role of Olanna.

    Sophie Okonedo is an Igbo actress that would be EXCELLENT. She has proven to be an enormously talented actress and best of all SHE WON'T MURDER THE IGBO LANGUAGE and she ACTUALLY LOOKS IGBO.

    Another Igbo actress is Caroline Chikezie, who since she is darker skinned can act as Kainene, Olanna's sister.

    I'm sorry but Thandie Newton is not only a Zimbabwean, but is going to absolutely DESTROY the character with her horrible Igbo. =(

  • sandra | January 27, 2012 1:42 PMReply

    Kimberly Elise.

  • Dawodu | January 27, 2012 1:29 PMReply

    This has nothing to do with light skinned versus dark skinned and everything to do with name recognition and cash

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