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 - opened in UK theaters 3 Fridays ago, April 11, and was to open in Nigeria, where the film is set, on Friday, April 25, but that didn't happen, as its release date was postponed to May 2nd, due to "delays in getting certification from Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board."
The film's Nigeria debut date was been postponed once again last week, for the very same reasons, although no specific future date was given this time around.
Needless to say, many in Nigeria, who were eagerly anticipating the film's opening today, continue to be disappointed.
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 - in light of current political turmoil within the country. Nevermind that it's a film whose backdrop - the Biafran war, which saw millions killed - is based on fact. The Censors Board might not be giving Nigerian audiences enough credit. Ultimately, this will likely end up being much ado about nothing, and 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.
Those in the USA will be familiar with these kinds of concerns; just ask Spike Lee, as one example, whose incendiary Do The Right Thing was a concern for distributors and theaters, who feared that the film would spark riots and violence. It didn't.
Author of the novel, Adichie, has her own theories, which she expressed in an op-ed for The New Yorker, published last week, in which she essentially scolds the Nigerian government for trying run, as well as shield Nigerians from the country's history. Although she also attempts to make sense of the Censor Board's ambivalence:
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.
Half Of A Yellow Sun hits USA theaters, courtesy of Monterey Media, on May 16th, without any delays, I'm sure - 11 days from today.
It will also screen at the upcoming New York African Film Festival which opens this week (May 7 - 13).
Biyi Bandele's feature film directorial debut stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, John Boyega, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle and Genevieve Nnaji, in a drama that weaves together the lives of four people swept up in the turbulence of civil war, with a newly independent 1960s Nigeria as the backdrop.
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 release, visit http://montereymedia.com/halfofayellowsun/.
Monterey has debuted a new Stateside release trailer, featuring new footage, which is embedded below: