Half of a Yellow Sun is an epic love story based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's bestselling novel and on Thu 24 April we had the great pleasure of welcoming its director Biyi Bandelete for a Q&A after a preview screening of the film (we recorded this event and you can watch it now).
We invited Chino Odimba, a Nigerian/British playwright and social media/PR consultant based just outside Bristol to share her reflections on the film after she watched it at the preview. Chino was born in Umuahia, Nigeria, one of the key settings of Adichie's novel, and we are delighted to bring you her thoughts on the film.
Looking at Half of a Yellow Sun - Chino Odimba
We all have an opinion on when books are made into films. We have all watched the good, the bad and the ugly screen adaptations of some of our favourite literature. I, for one, had to put that aside whilst I watched the screening of Biyi Bandele’s new film based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s hugely popular novel Half of a Yellow Sun about the Biafran war. For those who don’t know over *one million people died from fighting and famine during the *two and half years of this civil war.
Never has going to see a film been so full of expectation for me. I am a Nigerian born in one of the towns that feature as a setting in the novel/film. I absolutely love Adichie’s writing and in particular the sheer brilliance in bringing alive the human stories of war in this book. I am also a BIG fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The story which starts before the Biafran war breaks out in Nigeria, follows the lives, loves and politics of four main characters as they deal with the chaos of families and living in a country unsure of its future. Although in the novel, the story jumps back and forth through time, in the film we get a more straightforward picture of how they each enter and affect each other’s lives. In every other way the film stays so true to Adichie’s novel that I found myself shouting out loud many times [in my head] ‘that’s exactly how I pictured that room, that scene, that moment’.
The characters that Adichie so cleverly surprises many of her readers with appear on screen even more true to themselves and even more real to the audience. Each character is given the space to be true to the story. The central characters of Olanna, Kainene (Olanna’s twin), Odenigbo and Richard never lapse in their intrigue, and it is to the actors/actresses credit that each time they open their mouths you really don’t know what may come out. Any questions about the casting of the film I hope have now been answered.
In my opinion, this is a beautiful and honest adaptation. It is most of all, Biyi Bandele’s confidence and insightfulness as a director to make use of things like archive news footage and an outstanding soundtrack that stop the film from being merely a one dimensional experience.
With the same simple but effective blow that the novel delivers, the film makes no attempt to apologise for anyone but simply lays out a story in its most human form for us to make our judgments – and feel our own pain. The sharpness of the direction means that, as readers of the novel before, a cinema audience get not just a sense of the atrocities of the Biafran war but also the tenderness that walks so closely behind it.
It reminds us that life can be cheap yet “There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.” It reminds me that my mother, my father, my uncles, my aunts all lived through this war.
There are many ways in which I could have been disappointed but I just couldn’t find one. Go and see this film while you can - Watershed will be screening it until at least Thu 1 May.
*These numbers may vary slightly according which source you read*