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Three things that struck me while watching Half Of a Yellow Sun

by Sanusi IsmailaSeptember 4, 2014

I saw Half Of a Yellow Sun (HOAYS), the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s book of the same title about a week ago and to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve heard many complain that the essence of the book wasn’t captured fully in the movie, I agree with that, but has there ever been any movie that fully captured the essence of a book it was adapted from? I doubt that. That’s not saying it couldn’t have been better, there definitely is room for improvement but that’s a different issue all together. The book was a love story, set around the time of a Civil war, and after watching the movie, I think they captured that essence well enough.

While watching the movie, a few things struck me that were not exactly related to the movie per se, but the movie helped me put them in perspective. Here they are:

 

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) sucks.

For anyone that spent at least some of their childhood in Nigeria, this would be very obvious as there is almost nothing left to watch these days and I personally haven’t watched anything on NTA in years asides a few football matches they happened and DSTV didn’t and that on its own is sad.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed HOAYS, but the biggest reason why I did, was the sense of nostalgia I got from watching it. It reminded me of a time when there was no cable and yet, Tv wasn’t such a bore. There were tons and tons of stuff to watch, I used to look forward to every quarter when they announced new programming changes (yes, NTA used to change its schedule every three months then) it was such a big deal.

Then there was this thing they used to do every year, where each station or each zone made movies, which they showcased for a week, then announced the winner at the end of the week—I think they called it Telefest—it was so good. I remember one particular movie where a ghost came back to haunt the spouse who had murdered him. There was a scene in which the ghost (which you couldn’t see) opened a fridge, poured water in a glass and drank. It was so realistic that up till today, I still wonder how they made that scene; with the technology they had at their disposal. Juxtapose that with the kind of  “Nollywood” movies we see today. You can’t compare! HOAYS will fit right into NTA’s regular schedule from back in the day without making looking special. That’s not saying the movie isn’t special, I’m just stressing how good NTA programing used to be. Behind the Clouds, Ripples, and Checkmate were the dying embers of the flame NTA once was.

 

(PS: I’m not THAT old, I just have a really good memory)

 

Nigerian Actors aren’t so good.

The acting in HOAYS generally was decent across board, Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor were outstanding, but if I had to pick one between both, I would be Ms. Newton, seeing as she had to adapt to a new culture basically. My friend who I saw the movie with kept asking if I was sure she didn’t have Nigerian heritage.

The Nigerian based actors weren’t bad, by Nigerian standards, but the difference in class was very obvious. The only exception for me was Onyeka Onwenu, who put in a good shift by any standards, She was head and shoulders above everyone else; Zack Orji too in his very brief appearance wasn’t bad. Genevieve Nnaji who I have an eternal crush on and expected a lot from was disappointing.

I don’t blame her though.

I think the problem with Nigerian actors generally is that they haven’t still been able to distinguish between stage and film. It’s understandable—most of the pioneers of the Nigerian movie industry had stage experience and they carried that over to film and rubbed off everyone else I guess. With stage acting, you are trying to tell a story, in as vivid a manner as possible, so you have to exaggerate, be loud and dramatic. With film, you try as much to mimic life and tell even the same story from a stage play in a natural manner. That’s why even the most ridiculous stunts on some blockbuster hollywood movies are believable. Take your favourite action scene add some of the weird sounds they add in Nollywood movies (seriously, they all need a new sound bank) and picture the actor shouting “Chineke!” while doing the stunt. Probably wouldn’t be as believable as it felt before. Does the average Nigerian shout “Chineke” for everything? Or is the average gateman a Yoruba man with a poor Hausa accent?

Nigerian actors always exaggerate, over gesticulate and are always loud. Even things like sex scenes, which are meant to be subtle, are over dramatized and sometimes even sped up during post-production to emphasize the intensity. It is really bad.

 

(P.S: I have seen really few Nigerian movies—Violated, Igodo, Diamond Ring and Flesh and Blood. That’s all. Every now and then though, I run into AfriMagic while waiting at some reception or something, so while I’m not exactly an expert, I’m pretty sure much has changed, if anything, they seem to be getting worse).

 

Nigerians generally know very little about their history.

The average Nigerian really doesn’t know much about Nigerian history, besides the little that’s splashed on in primary school social studies and maybe some passed on by their parents. While watching the movie, I could sense disbelief that some of the events captured in the movie actually happened; a lot of “haba!” and “Oh wows” were muttered in some in some scenes. I even heard a “No wonder they banned the film, too many lies” at the airport massacre scene. Things like that happened.

I’d leave it at that.

If you haven’t seen the movie, You should see it, I think it’s probably the best Nigerian movie that has been made in a long while (yes, I am claiming it for us), there were many things that stood out—like the attention to detail. Every single thing I noticed fit the times, from the customes and  “feel” of Kano, to the architecture and interior design of staff houses in Nsukka and even the Lagos night life. The only thing that was off was the disco ball at the beginning. I’m still wondering what it was doing there.

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Sanusi Ismaila
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