Thandie Newton in Half of a Yellow Sun - I see Oscars not Race


Things are definitely looking up for Nigerian Literature in Film with the recent news about the adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie into a movie. It is heartening that the financing is majorly from Nigeria (private equity), though the British Film Institute is also providing some funding.

Film Bloggers are reporting that the movie will be a directorial debut for another Nigerian talent, Biyi Bandele, playwright, stage director and author of Burma Boys. (If you have not read Burma Boys, you should look for it, I also hope that would be made into a movie someday.) While these roles have not been confirmed, Thandie Newton is billed as Olanna, with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Dominic Cooper for the roles of Odimegwu and Richard respectively. I wonder who will act Ugwu, he was one of my favorites in the story, and of course Kainene, Olanna's twin.

Now, the producers of the movie are the same as those behind The Last King of Scotland (Forrest Whitaker won an Oscar for his role as Idi Amin of Uganda), and The Constant Gardener (Rachel Weisz won an Oscar for her role as an activist working in Kenya against Big Pharma). Actually, the main storyline of the Constant Gardener was based on true events in Kano - Pfizer was testing Trovan, an experimental meningitis drug, on children from poor homes without proper approvals from government.

Back to Half of a Yellow Sun, some commenters on the Shadow and Act Blog are not happy with the casting of Thandie Newton as Olanna. If you had asked me before now, I would have said that it should be an All-Nigerian cast. But that could've only been possible if it were Nollywood produced. Since it's not, I can understand the thought behind choosing the named actors. Thandie Newton is half-African, and more than that, she's a great actress and highly recognizable by both UK and the US movie goers. She has also been nominated for several awards, maybe this will be her first Oscar nod, and win?

Anyway, I'm too excited to worry about the politics of race at this stage. I wish them the best, and look forward to the movie. If you haven't read the book, now is the time to do so. I loved it, I laughed, I cried, I learnt a lot, and I highly recommend it.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria seceded in 1967 to form the independent nation of Biafra, a bloody, crippling three-year civil war followed. That period in African history is captured with haunting intimacy in this artful page-turner from Nigerian novelist Adichie (Purple Hibiscus). Adichie tells her profoundly gripping story primarily through the eyes and lives of Ugwu, a 13-year-old peasant houseboy who survives conscription into the raggedy Biafran army, and twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, who are from a wealthy and well-connected family. Tumultuous politics power the plot, and several sections are harrowing, particularly passages depicting the savage butchering of Olanna and Kainene's relatives. But this dramatic, intelligent epic has its lush and sultry side as well: rebellious Olanna is the mistress of Odenigbo, a university professor brimming with anticolonial zeal; business-minded Kainene takes as her lover fair-haired, blue-eyed Richard, a British expatriate come to Nigeria to write a book about Igbo-Ukwu art—and whose relationship with Kainene nearly ruptures when he spends one drunken night with Olanna. This is a transcendent novel of many descriptive triumphs, most notably its depiction of the impact of war's brutalities on peasants and intellectuals alike. It's a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing. (Sept. 15)
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