By Ikhide R.
Monday, September 08, 2014.
Once upon a time, beautiful men and women rose as
leaders to embrace the awesome promise of an emerging nation, Nigeria. They
were poets and soldiers, intellectuals and doers who mesmerized the world with
beautiful words and crisp uniforms – and proceeded to take the promise apart
brick by brick with graft, incompetence and civil strife. Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie’s epic novel Half of a Yellow Sun about Nigeria’s anxieties and
the ensuing civil war spoke to the heart of that broken promise in a unique and
mesmerizing way. Half of a Yellow Sun is a beautiful book that should be
required reading in every classroom, so that we may never forget. Many years
ago, I was so taken by it, I wrote a cringe-worthy review in which I gushed aloud my
hope that the book would be turned into a movie.
My prayers were answered, there is a movie and all I can say is that Biyi
Bandele the movie director, who also wrote the script, did a great job, never
mind the reviews. It is not a perfect movie, but it certainly entertained me.
Let me just say that it is important for those who are interested in Nigeria’s
history to watch the movie. At the very least, this pretty movie is a
conversation starter; you watch the movie and all these questions come rushing
at you. You want answers. Nigeria is a nation that deleted history from its
classrooms’ curriculum. We need movies like this in each classroom so that
children can rediscover the joy of being inquisitive.
What did I like about the movie? Well, start with Bandele’s attention to
detail, the period dresses, hairstyles, the music, the Cuban era cars driving
on the wrong side of the road and your heart melts. Miriam Makeba starts out
the movie with the haunting song, The Naughty Little Flea and Africa comes sailing back
into your soul in reverse black and white. I loved the historical pieces
dispersed within the narrative, of a young Queen Elizabeth visiting Nigeria in
1956, a young Ojukwu trying to lead Biafra, etc. History buffs will have a
field day deconstructing this narrative. And when the ever-befuddled white
writer Richard (Joseph Mawle) gets down with sultry Kainene (Anika Noni Rose)
on the dance floor and proves with Rex Lawson’s rollicking highlife piece Bere Bote that white men can’t dance,
you are grinning and reaching for more popcorn and beer. It is a powerful cast
of powerful actors and actresses, more importantly the chemistry among them was
Do not die until you have watched Thandie Newton play Olanna. And the chemistry
between the twins Olanna and Kainene has to be seen to be relished, this is
simply fine acting. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great as Odenigbo; he came across as
hardworking, paying attention to every detail, down to the accent even. And I
thought John Boyega played the role of the houseboy Ugwu magnificently. By the
way, does anyone notice he looks a bit like a young Denzel Washington? However
Onyeka Onwenu and Genevieve Nnaji looked like they needed acting classes, they
were mechanical in their thankfully bit roles, the script did not give them the
space to strut their stuff, if they had any. Onwenu’s overwrought acting was
comical – and not in a good way. Again, kudos to Bandele for assembling a
(mostly) star cast.
Half of a Yellow
Sun – The movie
Directed by Biyi
Ikhide R. Ikheloa is a literary critic, writer and
columnist, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at http://xokigbo.wordpress.com/ . You can follow him on Twitter at @Ikhide .