Sunday, 29 April 2012

Half of a Yellow Sun: the film (pre-production)

Eeeeeeeeekkk!! it's here! Well... not officially and everyone who knows will know that it has been on the books for years now. But with the casting of Thandie Newton as Olanna, the Nigerian hype around this book risked dying out - afterall it's one of the most successful Nigerian-written books, it's about the darkest days in Nigeria's history and for once, it stars leading characters who are Nigerian and through whose perspective we experience the Biafran war - yet Thandie Newton is not Nigerian and will probably flop (much like Morgan Freeman's Mandela impersonation) trying to do a Nigerian accent - which is not your average African accent.

As a Brit, I have all faith in Thandie. As a Brit I agree with many that we must now start casting and filming movies with commercial viability in mind and the current line up: Thandie Newton (Olanna), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Odenigbo) and Dominic Cooper (Richard) have Hollywood written all over them. [And those of you who watched My Murder on BBC3 will love that John Boyega is playing Ugwu] At the end of the day, you will sooner find a million people spending £5 a head to see a film, in the USA than you will in Nigeria - this is a fact of life in the continent's present situation. And if £5 a head in the USA means that perhaps we can let Nigerian's watch their story for just a dollar, then I'm in support.

Of course as a Nigerian I am more than excited to see Genevieve Nnaji starring. I don't think the film would have gotten away with not having at least one Nollywood heavyweight in it. BUT, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, we all know Genevieve's strengths, we've seen her in dozens of movies, we know the type of characters we like her to play. Those of you who have read the book can then tell me, do you think Genevieve is better suited to the role of Ms Adebayo or to Kainene, Olanna's twin sister? I don't want to type-cast Genevieve as a stern character, not looking for love but finding it anyway. Of course, if she were the part of Kainene, some may argue that she was being typecast. I don't know I think it would have done much more for her portfolio to be Kainene than Ms Adebayo, who I dislike just as much as Ugwu seems to in the book. And I am fearful of rumours that Thandie will play both sisters, it's seems highly unnecessary. Yes they are twins, but we are told they are nothing alike in appearance and personality.

Hmmmm. To be honest, none of this is about being a Brit or being Nigerian I'm so excited for this film to come out, I will make my entire family watch it and support African stories. I only write this post to say how I might do something different - the lads are spot on, I had them in mind too (when I was reading the book), if not Chiwetel then David Harewood he's got something Odenigbo-esque about him. Thandie is a good selection and to be honest I would rather her than Rita Dominic - this is a serious project. Kudos to everyone involved.

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