I could swear there was a simpler time when Hollywood-Nollywood collaborations were an excellent idea. The days when “Ije” and “Tango with me” were first released, Nigerians everywhere were thrilled. Finally we didn’t have to endure Uche Jumbo, Oge Okoye and Emeka Ike all in one movie! This explains why when it became common knowledge that Chimamanda Adichie’s award winning book “Half of a yellow sun” was being made into a movie, lots of Nigerians were excited more so as the director turned out to be UK-based Nigerian, Biyi Bandele.
A lot has changed since then, Half of a Yellow Sun (the movie adaptation) went from being a great idea, to “are-you guys-sure-you-wouldn’t-take-the-best-book-ever-and-turn-it-into-yet-another-movie flop.” Now when I see people tweeting about the soon to be released movie, it’s to express their disappointment at the chosen actor/actress playing a particular character.
Having read the book a million times myself, I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Bandele really knows what he’s doing. This is a book whose plot revolves around 5 main characters; thirteen-year-old Ugwu who is employed as a houseboy for Odenigbo; a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. Richard is a shy young Englishman in awe of Olanna’s twin sister, Kainene, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone.
Cast for the role of Olanna is Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor is playing Odenigbo, Anika Noni Rose for the role of Kainene, Joseph Mawle as Richard and British actor, John Boyega as the English-impaired houseboy, Ugwu.
It’s bad enough that Ejiofor is playing Odenigbo, a character described in the book as “the revolutionary lover”-domineering, not-so-good-looking with a brooding argumentative attitude. (We can hope that he puts on 15 pounds and delivers a bad igbo accent.)
What I cannot understand is how Anika Noni Rose is going to play Kainene!… Kainene, the extremely skinny, not- at-all good looking, emotionally-elusive twin sister of Olanna. Now don’t get me wrong, Anika Noni Rose is a phenomenal actress but can we really see her in that role! It kinda reminds me of Al Pacino in Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill.”*covers face*
What’s worse is that the few Nollywood actors involved in this project have been painfully sidelined; Genevieve is playing the minor role of Mrs. Adebayo– an intellectual with an obvious crush on Olanna’s lover. Small role, yet one with some very powerful lines in the book. However, according to the producers of the movie “a lot of her scenes had to be cut out because her style of acting was slowing down the movie” and AMBO 2007 winner, O.C Ukeje plays the role of 13 year old Aniekwena!..yes you weren’t suddenly stuck by dyslexia..he is actually playing the role of 13 year old village boy.
I’ll admit it’s often difficult for a movie adaptation to meet up to its book. When we read books we succeed in painting image pictures in our minds so real that when the movie adaptations are released they cannot, for the life of them meet up with the expectations our minds have built.
What movie wouldn’t shrivel under the spotlight of years of unbridled imagination? Even great movies like “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” just couldn’t meet up. Realistically (raises glass), here’s to hoping the movie doesn’t suck…now we drink!