Biyi Bandele is a prolific Nigerian playwright, screenwriter and novelist, who has just made his film directional debut with Half of a Yellow Sun, adapted from the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“I read the book the year it was published in 2006 and I fell in love with it. The characters just leapt out of the page,” says Biyi.
Adichie’s story set during the Nigerian civil war resonated with Biyi. With an immediate desire to bring it to the big screen, he sent a copy to producer Andrea Calderwood.
“She liked the book and we started this very long journey to make it happen, ” he says.
From 2006 to 2012, Bandele and his production team worked on developing Half of a Yellow Sun for the screen. “The process of making a movie is a very long one. First you write the script, then you rewrite during shooting because things happen differently to how you planned. Then, when you edit in post-production you rewrite again,” explains Bandele. It seems such an arduous task but he enjoyed every minute of it. “Producing cinematography is stressful, you have to make decisions that are very precise and I loved it.”
Half of a Yellow Sun is Biyi’s debut as a feature film director, although you wouldn’t know it. Audiences received the film exceptionally well, giving standing ovations at the Toronto Film Festival premiere – a satisfying way to see a vision come to fruition. “It’s actually really humbling,” says Bandele. The film adaptation stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Thandie Newton (The Pursuit of Happyness) as an upper class couple whose marriage is put to the test when Nigeria breaks into the crippling 1967 civil war that births the short-lived republic of Biafra.
Following its initial release, Half of a Yellow Sun has amassed widespread success. “I’ve seen this movie in Toronto, London, LA, Dubai, India, Scotland and everywhere I’ve gone people have responded incredibly well,” he says. He credits the film’s global appeal to “Chimamanda’s great book, amazing acting and everything just really coming together.”
It is no surprise that the novel captivated Biyi, motivating him to create the screenplay. Half of a Yellow Sun won Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the 2007 Orange Prize and a mention as one of the 20 most important fiction writers under 40 by The New Yorker.
Brisbane is extremely lucky to receive such a fabulous dose of international film culture from Biyi’s visit. Don’t miss Half of A Yellow Sun now showing in selected cinemas now.