Over the years it has been a normal practice to witness the transition of best-selling novels from black and white print to the big screen. Novels have always been a valuable source of good stories that; and over the years, these adaptations have turned out to be Box Office successes (Jurassic Park, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter,The Client); some have gotten award recognition (Atonement, The Help,The Lord of the Rings,The Godfather, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and have been critical hits (The Pelican Brief, Patriot Games, The Bourne Trilogy, The Shinning).
Clearly novels are a great source of ideas for screenplay writers and over the years it has worked like a charm. In Nigeria one major Best-seller that made a successful leap to the Silver screen was the Chinua Achebe classic, ‘Things Fall Apart.’ The amazing novel was adapted to a mini-series staring the likes of Pete Edochie and Justus Esiri. It worked out so good that it helped propel Edochie’s popularity and relevance in the film industry.
Now, recently it was announced that Chimamanda Adichie’s best-seller ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ was being made into a full-length film. The upcoming flick is to be directed by Nigerian writer Biyi Bamidele Thomas (author of Burma Boy) and produced by Andrea Calderwood (Last King of Scotland) and Gail Egan (The Constant Garderner).
This Biafra war-themed film partly funded by The British Film Institute is still in its development stage but somehow, Thomas has managed to reel in some big names to star in it; like Chiwetel Ejiofor (2012, Salt), Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double, Captain America: The Last Avenger) and Thandie Newton (MI:2, The Pursuit of Happyness).
It’s an impressive essemble, true, but the thing that has most Nigerians ticked off is the fact that, so far, the only thing ‘Nigerian’ about the film (that may be shot in Nigeria) is Chiwetel’s surname. What’s wrong with some of our actors? They ask. Why Newton (of South African origin) instead of a Genevieve or Omotola?
What do we think? Well CINEMANIACS thinks its still too early to crucify Thomas; the full cast has not been assembled yet, so it’s possible the guy still has plans to include more Nigerians in key roles. Even if he doesn’t, kudos should be given to him for taking the initiative to make a movie, we’ve waited for (at least here at CINEMANIACS) from an excellent novel.
Perhaps, putting stars like Ejiofor, Newton and Cooper (who did great as Tony Stark’s father in Captain America) will give the Half of a Yellow Sun movie international attention. However, if you’re a Nigerian-based film maker and you’re still pissed about the foreign presence in the big screen version of a Nigerian-themed, Nigerian-written book, then go and make yours. Truth is, you all should have thought of it first.
It isn’t too late though, Nigerian directors could still make an adaptation of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ or ‘Chike and the River.’ As for us, we give a big thumbs up to Biyi Thomas and say ‘we can’t wait to see the movie.’