I read a review on ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ earlier today authored by Zeba Blay on Shadow & Act, an African Diaspora film blog, and I was disappointed with the analysis because I felt it failed to really support the premise/headline/thesis of the article.
I love good writing and Shadow & Act is one platform, for many years now, that I go to get such good writing, especially where films about the Black/African diaspora are concerned.
Blay claims ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ “misses the mark” but offers nothing substantial to support that premise. She spends half of her writing discussing pre-production work and how Nigerians were upset an igbo woman was not cast for the lead but does nothing else with the so called film that “misses the mark.”
It felt like someone promised me a healthy grilled chicken sandwich, packed with the basic ingredients and of course the chicken; but instead slapped two pieces of bread with butter and then said, “take, eat this.”
I am disappointed, to say the least.
I am yet to see the movie but my thinking is that if Blay will make such a huge conclusion about the film, especially on an important and credible platform such as Shadow and Act, then she ought to at least put in the work to lay the foundation/ careful analysis for such a claim.
I have read two key reviews so far, the Variety review included. I did not care for the way the film critic kept taking jabs, in my view, at the director but the detail and analysis was one I respected and showed a writer with a clear command of the subject.
An excerpt of Blay’s review follows. Check it out, visit the site for the full story and let me know your thoughts.
“Before it even went into production, writer-director Biyi Bandele’s debut feature Half of a Yellow Sun sparked a huge casting debate. Based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the movie would focus on the stories of two sisters during the Nigerian-Biafran war of the late 60s and early 70s. The controversy came from the casting of the biracial Thandie Newton as Olanna, an Igbo woman. In January 2012, a petition was drawn up in protest of the casting, with the main gripe being:
“Igbo people, like any other people range in physical characteristics as well as complexion. However, the majority of Igbos are dark brown in complexion. Igbo people do not look like the bi-racial Thandie Newton. Thandie Newton is an accomplished and talented actress in her own right. However, she is not Igbo, she is not Nigerian, and she does not physically resemble Igbo women in the slightest.”
Of course, while debate about the representation of darker skinned women and Africans went on for a few weeks, the petition gained no real traction, shooting on the film was completed, and this year the film had its world premiere at TIFF. Was the petition well-founded? Did Thandie as lead work, or was her very presence in the film a slap in the face to the many Nigerian and Igbo actresses who could have potentially played the role (Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji, for instance, was suggested)? It’s difficult to answer these questions because, ultimately, in spite of the issues of colorism that may or may not taint her presence in the film, Newton (excusing her bad Nigerian accent) is one of the best things about the movie.
As Olanna, Newton is wholly likable, the character with which we most identify and sympathize with. She forms a stark and fascinating contrast to Anika Noni Rose as Kainene, Olanna’s status-seeking twin who disapproves of her sisters relationship with the radically minded intellectual Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor, turning in yet another superb performance this year). It’s this relationship between the sisters, and this tension, that serves as a sort of metaphor for the film’s historical backdrop. . .”
–Shadow and Act has the full story.
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