By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 25, 2012 at 9:22AM
It's not been documented much abroad, but Nigeria has one of the most vibrant, active film scenes in the world; over the last couple of decades, it's overtaken the United States to become the nation that produces the second largest quantities of film per year, behind only India. And while the films and stars of "Nollywood," as it's nicknamed, haven't yet crossed over to the Western mainstream, it's surely only a matter of time before their influence becomes felt. And now, it's been announced that Nigerian backers are teaming with British producers for a star-laden adaptation of a novel that tells a key part of the nation's history.
Screen Daily reports that producers Andrea Calderwood ("The Last King of Scotland," "Generation Kill") and Gail Egan ("Happy-Go-Lucky," "The Constant Gardener") have fully financed, thanks to help from both Nigerian private equity and the British Film Instute, their adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's bestselling novel "Half of a Yellow Sun." The novel, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007, is set during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970, when the south of Nigeria attempted to secede and form their own country, the Republic of Biafra, and tracks a revolutionary university professor, his lover, her sister, a British ex-pat, and their houseboy, who are cought up in the conflict across the 1960s.
Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele, who's had a number of successes on the London stage, including his adaptation of seminal post-colonial novel "Things Fall Apart," is making his directorial debut with the project, and he's assembled quite an impressive cast, with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dominic Cooper and Thandie Newton all locked into the film. The trade don't have a firm word on who each is playing, but our guess is that Ejiofor will play university professor Odenigbo, Newton his lover, Olanna, and Cooper will play Richard, a British ex-pat in Nigeria to study.
It's a pretty terrific cast, not least a rare lead role for Ejiofor, one of our favorite working actors, while the presence of Cooper hot off "The Devil's Double" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" will undoubtedly help the film internationally. Filming starts in March, before Ejiofor segues to Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years A Slave," so we're unlikely to see this before 2013, but it certainly seems to be a film to keep an eye on.