The 10th Montreal International Black Film Festival – 10 MIBFF – closed on September 28 with the screening of Half of a Yellow Sun, a United Kingdom/Nigeria coproduction. It is based on the novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for which she won the Orange Prize for Fiction, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the UK. The lead roles are played by Academy Award Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, a BAFTA winner.
However, Half of a Yellow Sun does not need to be propped up by awards to proclaim itself a winner in its own right.
The film opens with the independence of Nigeria from the United Kingdom in 1960 and quickly moves on to the civil war, military coups and the creation and then dissolution of the Republic of Biafra. Whilst the film does not provide explanations of what caused these events it does give a detailed account of how such turmoil affected a single family, and hence, the Nigerian people at large.
Kainene and Olanna are twin sisters, the daughters of a tribal chief. As such, they have received a privileged education in English and American universities and want no part of the newly independent government and the ensuing corruption. Olanna takes up with Odenigbo, an ethnic Igbo professor and revolutionary. Kainene throws in her lot with Richard, an Englishman who loves Nigerian culture and refuses to leave his lover or the country even when conflict becomes too hot to handle. Ugwu is a young houseboy working for Odenigbo whose loyalty lies strictly with the family for whom he works.
This film is not about the causes of war or about colonial and post colonial history or about internecine wars involving tribal allegiances, even though it does touch upon such subjects. It is about the human face of war and how it affects individuals, families and the larger human tribe.
Do watch this film which will be screened commercially in Montreal as of October 3. It will break your heart but it will also make you laugh and give you hope. After all, if there is half of a yellow sun, the other half will show its face when the clouds move on.