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

Set mostly in the 1960s during Nigeria’s civil war, Bandele said the era remains a subject so sensitive that it’s not taught in Nigerian schools. Many commentators on social media suggested the censors were afraid that the film could inflame tribal rivalries.

The Associated Press reported that the movie also comes as Nigeria confronts an Islamic uprising that threatens to tear the country apart as tensions increase between Muslims and Christians, who comprise almost equal halves of the 170 million living in Nigeria.

The censors’ board confirmed it has cleared the movie for viewing by those over 18.

About 1 million died in the war for an independent Biafra fighting for the Igbo tribe of the southeast. Many Igbos reportedly starved to death because food imports were blocked. At the time, leaders of the Igbo, who are almost exclusively Christian, accused the government of failing to protect them when Muslims from the Hausa tribe in the north slaughtered about 30,000 of them.

The ethnic tensions and mistrust that led to that war remain strong.

Today, some northern leaders accuse the government, led by a Christian southerner, of orchestrating mass killings of Muslims by soldiers in the northeast. And thousands have died in ongoing conflicts over land and resources across central Nigeria that pit mainly Muslim Fulani herders against predominantly Christian farmers from other tribes.

“This movie was meant to be a cautionary tale to say we can disagree as much as we want but war is never the answer,” Bandele said.