By Ike Anya
Nearly two years ago, I sat in a darkened screening room in Soho with an audience of perhaps twenty people, watching the first screening of Biyi Bandele’s film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. As the lights came back on, and the room erupted in applause, I joined the small group of people clustering round the director and the producers, congratulating them. As I approached Biyi’s outstretched hand, I found myself pulling him into a hug and, embarrassedly breaking into deep heaving sobs. There had been many moving scenes in the film, but I hadn’t realized how moved I was by them until that moment, when watched by the bemused cameramen and technical crew, and the executive producer Yewande Sadiku, whose look of awe and bemusement I will never forget, I wet Biyi’s shirt with tears.
A few months later, I watched it again in the same small room, this time sitting behind Chimamanda who was in London to speak at TEDxEuston (Watch the talk again, here) and who had insisted that I accompany her to the screening that had been arranged for her. There were only a handful of us in the room, and when it finished, Chimamanda turned to me and said “Biyi has told our Nigerian story well”. The next day at TEDxEuston, we had the privilege of showing the trailer of the film as a surprise towards the end of the conference, giving our audience the opportunity of being among the first people in the world to see it. They received it with whoops of delight, giving the one and a half minute clip a standing ovation.
That reaction and the association of the film with TEDxEuston, was not unexpected. At TEDxEuston, we have worked over the last 5 years to inspire new ideas about Africa, to create spaces where we can tell own stories, which is what the Half of a Yellow Sun film project has also been about, largely financed by Nigerians and shot on location mostly in Nigeria, it is an important project with symbolic meaning for our continent.
The film’s journey to our screens, I am told has faced the many obstacles that others have faced in trying to tell our own stories in our own way, to our own audiences, within spaces where our perspectives have often been absent or curated in ways unfamiliar to us.
As the film opened in Australia last week, and in the UK and Nigeria this month, questions still continue to pour in from all over the world, asking when will it be released in the US, in Ghana, in Kenya, in South Africa, in India.
It appears that distributors are unconvinced that there is a market for the film. Telling our own stories it seems is not enough, we must also develop the channels for distribution and show the world that there is an audience hungry for these stories, these perspectives.
I urge you to go and see this film, and ask your friends, families and colleagues to see it, not least because of the sacrifices that the executive producer and team have made in ensuring that our story is told, but also because as writer Toni Kan said in his review for African Magic: “ if Yewande Sadiku and her co-producers make a success of this, the era of big budget Nollywood movies that would compete well on the international scene would have arrived.”
For dates and details of screenings for the film in your area, including the Lagos and London premieres, please visit the website halfofayellowsunmovie.com, follow on Twitter @HOAYSMovie and Facebook
Put a group together – watch the movie, talk about the story and what it means to you. Tell us what you think @TEDxEuston
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