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Half of a Yellow Sun

Film & TV

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This impressive film isn’t your everyday love story – it is an adaptation of a 450-page novel that combines an examination of the savage Nigerian Civil War (1967-70) with a personal story about the lives of twin sisters.

Well-educated and attractive Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are the daughters of a successful Lagos businessman. They are independent and don’t believe in the traditional women’s witchcraft. Olanna teaches sociology at the university and moves in with her lover, much to his mother’s disgust. Kainene also moves away from home to be in charge of their father’s business.

As the conflict arrives, the sisters are faced with the grim reality of tribal warfare and mass killings. Olanna, whose lover Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a radical academic, flees to the “independent” state of Biafra, but can’t escape the conflict. Kainene, whose partner is Englishman Richard (Joseph Mawle), faces equally daunting problems trying to run a business in wartime.

Sometimes sad, sometimes elated, Nigerian director Biyi Bandele’s epic film is always thought-provoking and moving. It tells its story in fresh ways, particularly when it comes to showing that time has passed.

After seeing the film, I am keen to read the book, which is certain to add even more layers to the story. Half of a Yellow Sun spans such a horrific time in Nigeria’s history that it is difficult to take in all the details in a two-hour movie. However, in a stroke of genius, the film incorporates newsreels and maps to make things clearer for the uninitiated.

Half of a Yellow Sun is an impressive film on many levels, with excellent performances from all actors involved. It is a significant achievement for the embryonic Nigerian film industry.

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