The highly anticipated movie, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” has been banned by the National Film & Video Censors Board because the movie is partially based on events that took place during the Biafran War.
According to the director, Biyi Bandele, the movie scheduled to open in Nigeria last Friday was essentially banned as the country’s film censorship board has refused to issue the movie a certificate. Earlier, Half of a Yellow Sun’s premier has been postponed in Nigeria.
Though, the movie which unites some of Nigeria’s major cultural figures of civil war (also known as the Biafran War) is already showing in Britain and is scheduled to open in the United States next month. It also had its premiere last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. And Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who starred in the Academy Award-winning film “12 Years a Slave” is one of the stars in the movie.
The censorship board could not be reached for comment about the film, but Mr. Bandele said officials seemed to be “jittery about its content.” He continued: “That it deals with the Biafran War (from 1967 to 1970). That it might incite people to violence.” Even today a remnant of the old Igbo independence movement persists in the country’s south, which is largely Christian. And in the north, where Muslims are in the majority, many people attribute the Nigerian Army’s frequent large-scale killings of civilians, in its campaign against the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, to southerners’ lingering fury over their treatment during the long-ago war.
On Friday, Mr. Bandele denounced what he characterized as a blatant attempt to suppress discussion about a crucial if painful episode in Nigeria’s coming-of-age. “It is seriously shocking that someone would presume to be this arbiter of what Nigerians want and don’t want to see,” he said. Mr. Bandele suggested that the war remains largely taboo in the country’s classrooms, making his film all the more important as a discussion point. “To say the way to heal is not to talk about it is disingenuous,” he said.
|Chiwetel, Andrea Calderwood (producer) and Biyi Bandele (director)|
The civil war is the central episode in Ms. Adichie’s ambitious book, which is widely available in Nigeria. Yet the real subject is less the war itself than its formative stages — a sweeping portrayal of Nigeria’s nouveaux riches, pan-Africanist intellectuals, colonial remnants, and an increasingly belligerent officer caste. Mr. Bandele said his film was faithful to that orientation as well. Yet the large-screen portrayal of violence, at a time when real-life violence has dominated the country’s newspapers and airwaves, appears to have touched a nerve.
Nigeria is now traversing an especially unsettled and anxious period, with frequent killings of civilians by Boko Haram — a bombing in the capital, Abuja, last week killed at least 75 people — and the unsolved kidnappings of schoolgirls in the north. “We went out of our way to reassure the government that we were not trying to stir up trouble,” Mr. Bandele said. “The ironies in this are just so many. It is just surreal.”