It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post, but seeing a sneak peak screening of Half of a Yellow Sun tonight has moved me to type up a few thoughts. First of all it was a terrific movie–maybe the best big budget film that I’ve seen set in Africa (and I don’t dislike movies like Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland). Warning: it starts slow. I hope critics sit through the whole thing and don’t write it off based on the first twenty minutes where we feel like the director and actors are getting their bearings. It was actually shot in Calabar and Town Creek, Nigeria by a Nigerian director (Biyi Bandele) and with a Nigerian production company, so I imagine a learning curve was a factor. Biyi Bandele started as a playwright and in the beginning the film feels more like a videotaped play that doesn’t quite match the periodicity of the historic footage of 1960s Nigeria that’s mixed in throughout the film to narrative the numerous political turns the country took during that rocky first decade. So, not having read the book, I started to worry that the movie was flopping about 30 minutes in when it was basically a historic soap opera that followed the lives of twins (Olanna and Kainene) in the first few years of independence as they moved from Lagos to Nsukka and Port Harcourt, fell in love and lost their trust in their lovers. Sex, jealousy, and lover’s rows summarize the first half of the film, shot in intimate frames that offer slivers into the lives of the characters. The second half of the movie pans out cinematographically and in content when war breaks out in a shocking scene at an airport. Despite the choppiness out of the gate, by this point we really know the characters through all their tribulations and more comedic moments (which there are plenty), and how many movies about Africa can we say that about before the violence breaks out?? Then the second half of the film left my heart in my throat. The war, the suffering, the constant anxiety of the second act hints that the first act’s over-the-top-soap-opera-style may have been self-conscious satire. The most memorable line in the movie comes as Olanna and Kainene are walking down a dirt road after they’ve each lost all security due to the atrocious war, and Kainene says, “There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.” I’m kind of spelling it out here, but based on the early Rotten Tomatoes reviews (mostly from Australians where it’s already been released who have said things like “Much of the narrative plays out like a TV melodrama;” “Only when the protagonists’ lives are at stake – and bombs drop – does the piece truly come alive, with a sense of much-needed urgency;” “Bandele fails to establish the narrative’s wider national and political context, and the film is ultimately insubstantial as a result.”), I’m concerned that critics will miss the message of the movie along with why Bandele chose to partition it the way that he did. If this continues to be the critic’s take, don’t buy it; see Half a Yellow Sun for yourself and see past the production hiccups and the unfamiliar pacing to experience a stunning adaption about love, loss, and Africa. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the one white character is very much in the periphery even if his presence helps American audiences digest and relate to the movie. Refreshing.

Here’s the Trailer for those who haven’t see it yet.

Image

Advertisements