Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Half of a Yellow Sun [2013]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars)  TheGuardian (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
NYTimes (B. Kenigsberg) review
TheGuardian (P. Bradshaw) review
Variety (G. Lodge) review
HollywoodReporter (L. Felperin) review

Vanity Fair / Ebony (J. Miller) Interview w. Thandie Newton
Essence.com (Y. Sangwani) Interview w. Anika Noni Rose
TheSource Interwiew with AFI Fest director J. Lyanga

Half of a Yellow Sun [2013] (directed and screenplay by Biyi Bandele [IMDb] based on the award winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) set in the context of the 1967-70 Nigeria-Biafran Civil War following Nigeria's independence in 1960 has been compared to Gone With the Wind (film) and Unbearable Lightness of Being (film).  The film played recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

The film tells the story of twin sisters, the more idealistic Olanna (played by Thandie Newton) and more practical / social climbing Kainene (played by Anika Noni Rose) from an upper-class / educated Nigerian family who reached adulthood just as Nigeria gained its independence (from Britain) in 1960.  Olanna moves out to a university town in northern Uganda with her lover Odenigdo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), an young, rather radical sociology professor.   Kainene, in contrast assumes responsibility for the family's commercial interests which were located in the coastal, oil rich, south-eastern part of the country from where their family was originatate.  She also takes on a (white) British expatriate writer (and married man) named Richard (played by Joseph Mawle) as her lover and after he divorces his first (white) wife, he becomes her husband.

Now the Big Question debated in intellectual circles across Africa in the early years of the post-Colonial era regarded how Africans should view the boundaries of the new African nation states, which had, after all, still been imposed on these African states (and the peoples living within them) by the exiting European colonial powers.  Odenigdo, firebrand that he was, advocated the position that often heard at the time, that "the only truly indigenous, pre-Colonial political unit in Africa was the Tribe," that both "the national boundaries of the emerging post-Colonial States as well as even the concept of 'Race' were concepts imposed on Africans by the (European) Colonial Powers." 

Hence, though initially teaching in the above mentioned university town located in Northern Nigeria, he becomes an ideological advocate of the secession of the south-eastern region of Nigeria where his tribal roots were from.  When this region does secede, the region declaring itself the Republic of Biafra and taking on a flag which included an emblem of a (rising) "half sun" from which the current film and the novel on which it is based derive their name, he becomes an enthusiastic defender of the move.

All good in theory, 'cept ... it turned out that the south-eastern region of Nigeria was ALSO the most oil rich region of the country at the time.  Hence the Nigerian state (and the rest of Nigeria) had not merely ideological reasons for fighting to keep the nation together (the majority view among intellectuals across Africa came to be that however inappropriately drawn the boundaries of the newly independent nation states of Africa may have been, _changing them_ now would plunge the continent into chaos) but also obvious economic ones: Allowing south-eastern region of Nigeria to secede would economically damage the rest of the country.

So when Biafra declares its independence, Odenigdo and Olanna along with their emerging family (rather complicated actually as Odenigdo had a child by another woman) move rather enthusiastically down to Biafra to "build up" the new country.   In contrast, Kainene felt more or less dread.  Why?  Well she had previously managed "the family's" commercial interests there quite well and her personal life was clearly _not_ organized along "tribal lines" -- she had married James, outside of her tribe, indeed outside of her race, after all.  Yet she was also Biafra's dominant tribe, so what could she (and the rest of the family) as ideologically "unconvinced" as they were, do ... but "go along."

The rest of the story ensues ...

Since Nigeria's national boundaries remain what they were at independence and there no longer is a secessionist Republic of Biafra, one can assume how the story has to play out.  Still it makes for a fascinating modern post-colonial African tale, told by modern Africans themselves.

EXCELLENT AND THOUGHTFUL (if appropriately R-rated) FILM! 

For those interested in this part of recent African history, the film is now available for streaming at a reasonable price on various services including Amazon Instant Video.

 << NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

No comments:

Post a Comment