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‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ Finally Approved for Release in Nigeria by Government Censors Board

'Half Of A Yellow Sun' Finally Approved for Release in Nigeria by Government Censors Board

Various Nigerian press outlets and journalists (via Twitter) are reporting that Biyi Bandele’s “Half Of A Yellow Sun” – a film adaptation of celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize-winning novel of the same name – has finally been cleared by the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, for local release.

The announcement didn’t include a date that the film will eventually be released now that it’s been approved for release. According to the Board’s Corporate Affairs representative, Caesar Kagho, the film has been approved with an “18” rating, which, based on my research, is the equivalent of an “R” rating here in the USA, which matches what the MPAA rated it for USA release.  

This news comes over 2 months after the film was initially set to open in Nigerian theaters (it’s already been released in the USA and the UK, and is already available on home video in both regions). 

It was to open in Nigeria, where the film is set, on Friday, April 25, but that didn’t happen, as its release date was postponed, and has since been delayed, due to “delays in getting certification from Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board.”

Government censors said that they delayed the release of the film because “it might incite violence in the country” given its subject matter – specifically, a scene that details a massacre at a northern Nigerian airport – in light of current political turmoil within the country. Nevermind that it’s a film whose backdrop –  the Biafran war, which saw millions killed – is based on fact. I’ve always said, since this all began, that the Censors Board might not be giving Nigerian audiences enough credit, and ultimately, this would likely end up being much ado about nothing, as the noise created by the film’s release delays may actually drowned out any made by audiences about the content, after the film is finally released.

What led to the film’s eventual Census Board approval isn’t yet public information. It was previously reported that the bureau wanted certain scenes to be cut from the film in order for approval to be granted. So maybe we are to assume that the producers of the film accepted the compromise.

In this case, we can probably thank the growing global reach of the source novel’s author (Adichie), who would eventually utilize her influence to pen an op-ed for The New Yorker

The censors’ action is a knee-jerk political response, yet there is a sense in which it is not entirely unreasonable. Nigeria is on edge, with upcoming elections that will be fiercely contested, religion and ethnicity increasingly politicized, and Boko Haram committing mass murders and abductions. In a political culture already averse to openness, this might seem a particularly appropriate time for censorship. But we cannot hide from our history. Many of Nigeria’s present problems are, arguably, consequences of an ahistorical culture. As a child, I sometimes found rusted bullets in our garden, reminders of how recent the war had been. My parents are still unable to talk in detail about certain war experiences. The past is present, and we are better off acknowledging it and, hopefully, learning from it.

You can read the full insightful piece here.

And director Biyi Bandele followed that up with his own op-ed, sharing his frustrations with the Censors Board, in piece he wrote for CNN’s African Voices, titled “Why can’t Nigerians watch country’s biggest movie?”

In the piece, Bandele also chastised the Censors Board, drawing a connection in sentiment between its members and Boko Haram.

Since the Toronto premiere those many months ago, I’ve seen “Half of a Yellow Sun” at other film festivals in all corners of the globe. And Nigerians being the ubiquitous people that we are have been present in the audiences — quite often in great numbers — at each of these festivals. I am yet to meet a single Nigerian who has seen the film who came out of the cinema thinking that they had just seen a film that would incite anyone to violence. If anything, more than once, I’ve been accosted by cinema-goers — some Nigerian, but really, people of all races — who have been profoundly moved by the experience of watching the film. The refrain I’ve heard from them is, war is nasty, isn’t it.

He then called on Patricia Bala, director-general of the Censors board, to do what he believed was the right thing, and allow Nigerians in Nigeria to see the film as it’s meant to be seen; not illegally, speaking to the local movie industry’s piracy problem.

Whether or not the film eventually gets a ratings certificate in Nigeria, “Half of a Yellow Sun” will be seen by millions of Nigerians. The question is: will they be allowed to see it in their local cinemas and on legally acquired DVDs or will they be forced to watch it on pirate DVDs and through illegal downloads? If the biggest film that’s ever been made in Nigeria is available to Nigerians only in bootleg form, the censorship board will be doing to the Nigerian film industry what Boko Haram is trying to do to Nigeria: drive a stake through its heart. I sincerely hope they both fail.

Those in the USA will remember when, as one example, Spike Lee’s incendiary “Do The Right Thing” was a similar concern for distributors and theaters during the year of its release, who feared that the film would spark riots and violence. 

It didn’t.

Biyi Bandele’s feature film directorial debut, stars Chiwetel EjioforThandie Newton, John Boyega, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle and Genevieve Nnaji, in a drama that weaves together the lives of four people swept up in the turbulence of civil war, with a newly independent 1960s Nigeria as the backdrop.

Produced by Bafta award-winner Andrea Calderwood (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Gail Ega (“The Constant Gardner”), the film is a British/Nigerian co-production and was shot at Tinapa Film Studio in Nigeria and in the UK.

For more info on the film’s Stateside release, visit

Watch several clips and check out images from the film below:

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Biafra, the strength of blackman

"Federal Republic of Biafra, the African Europe that never was". That's how "The New York Times" after the war in 1970, described the former Eastern Region. I'd asked one old Chinese friend who has a factory in Kano, northern Nigeria, but who had told me he wanted to relocate his factory to the "Biafran territory" to avoid Boko Haram, why he's still wasting time in "Egypt"? Guess his answer! He said every investor would want to locate their investments in the Biafran Land due to the strong economy of the region and lifestyle, but that they (the Chinese) cannot compete with the Biafrans in terms of quality manufacturing, being that the Biafrans reason and behave like the Europeans and Americans; as they also know what the Chinese know. I laughed out loudly and spanked his back. I told him that in Biafra Land, you'll enjoy security, prosperity and happy life because Biafrans see suicide as a taboo before God and the Bible warns not to shed your own blood talk less of the blood of another person since the power to create belongs to God. I told him that only a living man can run a factory and chase money. The competition he fears has no meaning because if you produce quality stuffs, as the Biafrans have strong purchasing power, they'd patronize you. But if you produce the "Gbanjo stuffs (sorry, Guangzhou stuffs)", which the Chinese are known for and which only can appeal to the people in Kano, then I'm afraid, it may never sell in Biafran land. To cut long story short, my state government gave him a free land to invest and we've almost reached 60% into pulling out of the lion's den (the Boko Haram's den)

Anne Mmeje

Good. So glad to hear it is finally approved, and coming just a day after I mentioned the delay in my blog is serendipitous. Hurrying over to my website to announce the good news!


i Must Retaliate the Killings of my fallow Christian Biafran Brothers and sisters and Awusa can never go scot free on that Never…..@ in Biafra we Stand.


Thank God that the Nigeria Film and Video Censors Board has finally seen reason to approve the epoch-making film, Half of A Yellow Sun, to be watched legally in Nigeria. For those who still worry about the sensitivity of the film given the expected horror scenes of the Nigeria/Biafra war it may portray, never mind, because the victims of the war, the people of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria (mainly Igbos) have since put the war and their losses and sacrifices behind them and moved on. The present concern of the Igbos and other victims of the war (in the then Biafra) is how NOT to allow this atrocity to happen again to them and their future generations or to any other community in our country. My fear is that the present onslaught of the Boko Haram sect on the Nigerian people appears to suggest that no lessons have been learnt from our past war history. Perhaps, this is what the film, Half of A Yellow Sun, will help to inculcate in the Nigerian populace, especially the youths who have, for long by a deliberate policy of past governments, been denied the right of knowing how we came to where, and how, we are now in this country. It should be a part of the much needed restructuring, reformation and mental reconstruction of the Nigerian mind towards a new Nigeria of our dream, where every citizen feels at home and lives under the rule of law.

Wally Weasel

This ought to be worth watching.



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