Half of a Yellow Sun: A Revolutionary take on a Revolutionary tale?

The trials and tribulations surrounding the release of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ in Nigerian Cinemas have come and gone….. and while we rejoice that Nigerians can now watch the adaptation of this great novel on the big screen, we suddenly almost wish it had remained a book.

half-of-a-yellow-sun-the-sisters-sceneIt’s the curse of movies from book adaptations to be constantly compared to their original text. Who can blame ardent readers for that?

If you are a book lover and one with an active imagination, you probably envisioned a million superb ways a scene in that favourite book occurred. Most of the time, the reality of a movie adaptation dashes that wonderfully imagined scene and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth! Well, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ is definitely no exception.

A big flaw is that the movie tries to tell the entire story without focusing its plot on one key theme, this causes it to lack any form of depth or coherency and could inhibit a person who hasn’t read the books from establishing a connection with the tale being told. As a friend of mine said, this movie leaves the portion of the audience who has read the book feeling dissatisfied while it leaves the rest of the audience feeling discontented.

This however, does not mean that the movie was a total failure. In fact, plot and narrative aside, other elements worked so well, they made up for most of the above mentioned.

An example is the Cast. Yep the Cast.

half-of-a-yellow-sun-movieOne of my biggest concerns when I heard that ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ was to be adapted was…… WHO IS GOING TO ACT IN IT! Portraying complexity in characters in something I have struggled with in Nigerian movies. The ability of some Nigerian actors to let you know that they are obviously acting can make one lose interest in the art of film; so who was going to be cast in these roles that so many people around the world had formed some emotional attachments to? Well, I give kudos to the casting team, for they knew what they were doing and were able to bring together a group of stellar actors who gave stellar performances.

Favourites in order of preference are:

Anika Noni Rose as Kainene: Wow, just wow! Mannerisms, speech and that sense of aloofness as described in the book were so on point. And while it would be so cool to only review the character based on the adaptation from the book, it is a movie and that character reminded me so much of Claire Underwood in some scenes, a woman I think is one of the most interesting characters on television today.

Anika shows how much of a seasoned actress she is by how much more Nigerian she seemed than Thandie and also with her ability to tone down her accent better.

John Boyega as Ugwu: A good number of you may not be familiar with John, but I would advise you to take some time to watch him in the movie ‘Attack the Block’. This 22year old actor born, bred and buttered in the United Kingdom was a treat for me. Not only was he able to tone down his extremely British accent, he was so local in his mannerisms and portrayed that apparent lack of surety that house helps tend to have around their employers with so much finesse.

Yes, the accent still was not totally lost, but his acting chops were surely in full portrayal. It’s not a wonder that he recently had a stint in the just concluded season of 24 and is part of the cast of the upcoming ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’.

Half-Of-a-Yellow-Sun-SceneOnyeka Owenu as Mama was a blast. Conniving, Controlling and Convinced of the witchcraft Olanna had used to capture her son, Onyeka depicted the evil ‘boyfriend’s mother’ so well she made a lot of you thankful for the kind of mother your boyfriends have. And talk about punch lines…. She definitely had some of the most memorable dialogue in the entire movie.

Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor carried their roles well. Can we talk about how strong the Ibo genes in Chiwetel are? Hair everywhere! And I will not lie, Thandie Newton is a fine girl! Kai. She may not have been the most accurate fit to the description of Olanna in the books but her acting chops and beauty were able to make up for her apparent lack of suppleness.

I have to give Kudos to the film maker for a little detail that many may not be impressed by which is, the care taken to show how much more affected by the war Olanna was compared to Kainene.

As for our ‘waka pass‘ local actors, we saw you too.

It is apparent that some of you were placed in the film so they could use your poster to sell the film. But don’t worry we don’t blame you. We just hope you milked the cash cow and didn’t do charity with your image as well.

All put together, while ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ wasn’t quite the revolutionary adaptation we were expecting, it shows how much more we can actually achieve within Nigeria. The sets were very on point, the costumes were well dated, the lighting and picture quality were solid, but then again all these were expected considering the budget declared by the producers of the film.HB

I totally look forward to even better movies made by 100% Naija filmmakers and more solid adaptations of Nigeria stories for the big screen.


What do you think? Drop your comments below.



  1. Ty Ash

    17th August 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Very good review. The scenes, especially at the beginning, were too rushed! I was so dissatisfied I could barely finish the film. Oh, and I disagree – Anika Roses’ accent was all up in our faces compared to Thandies. And you forgot to say a word about Mr,Joseph who played Richard… His character portrayal was the worst !

    • MoviePencil

      18th August 2014 at 5:16 am

      Hahahaha, totally forgot about Mr. Joseph for a minute. Yes, he seemed a lot off when it came to the entire cast. Not only was he a disappointment to the ladies expecting to see some fine chap, he was also a disappointment in his portrayal of his role.

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