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'Half of a Yellow Sun' Debuts

Movie Opens in Nigeria, Available Domestically on DVD

Stacy M. Brown | 7/16/2014, 3 p.m.
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton star in the movie “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which will be available on DVD later this month. (Courtesy of okayafrica.com)

The Nigerian government will finally allow its citizens to see what Americans and others have called one of the unsung movies of the year.

The film, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which premiered at festivals around the world in 2013, will be available on DVD in the District and throughout the country later this month.

“This movie is a sort of love story, a love letter to Nigeria’s very complex and complicated history,” said Biyi Bandele, the film’s Nigerian-born director.

Based on the book of the same name, the 111-minute film stars, “12 Years a Slave,” actor Chiwetel Ojiofor, and Thandie Newton, whose credits include, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Mission Impossible II,” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.”

“Half of a Yellow Sun” follows the life of two sisters, Olanna and Kainene, who return home to Nigeria in the 1960s where they soon follow different paths. As civil war erupts, political events loom larger than their differences as they join the fight to establish an independent republic.

While government censors in Nigeria initially objected to the film, fans and critics around the globe praised the suspense-filled movie, which will now premiere in Nigeria on Aug. 1.

“Those who know Ejiofor from ‘12 Years a Slave’ should see him here to experience his range,” said New York Daily News film critic Joe Neumaier. “In ‘12 Years’ we saw a world of emotion play across his face. In ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ his performance as a volatile, revolutionary, conflicted professor shows other aspects of this great actor’s talent.”

Sandra Lovejoy, a Northeast resident who watched the movie on YouTube, said it’s a tear-jerker. “I’ve seen better movies, but I haven’t seen too many that’s been more emotional than this one. It really grabs you and you can’t be human if you don’t start caring about these sisters and the other people in this movie,” said Lovejoy, 37.

The movie has been adapted from the novel by award-winning writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian native whose work has been nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing and she’s been selected by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the BBC for short story awards.

The book has sold millions of copies since its release in 2006 and producers of the film said many more Nigerians will now be able to appreciate it because of the movie.

Already, many native Nigerians have expressed their excitement about the film. “Most of us will have little knowledge of the Biafra war, except, possibly, for the media’s haunting images of starving children,” Friederike Knabe of Nigeria posted on the movie’s webpage. “This tells the real story.”

The plot cannot be condensed into one theme or story, said Patricia Fletcher of Southeast. “It’s about loving someone with whom you have real and painful differences; the heartache and the companionship and, ultimately, the acceptance of each other and the love,” Fletcher said. “It is about how disparate members of a family cope with plenty and with poverty. It takes you into the war for Biafra and the details are harsh, stark, and they make you pause.”