Editor’s note: Nigerian Biyi Bandele is the director of “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2013), a film based on a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about the Biafran war, in which over a million people died. The opinions expressed in this article are solely his.
(CNN) — When I heard last month that the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, headquartered in Abuja, had indicated that it would be unable to issue certification for “Half of a Yellow Sun” in time for the film’s release date, I naturally assumed, at first, that what we were faced with was nothing more sinister than another instance of the typical, if frustrating, culture of wilful incompetence that we’d grappled with during the making of the film — while shooting the film in Nigeria two years ago, there were times when we felt ensnared in impenetrable jungles of red tape, when we would be given the go-head by one arm of the government only to find our path blocked by the other arm.
I had no reason to assume that there might be anything more to it than that. I had no reason to assume, for instance, that the inability of the board to issue the film with a certificate might actually be a clumsy, heavy-handed ban in all but name.
After all, when the movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last autumn, amongst the entourage of Nigerians who flew in to Toronto for the occasion was Patricia Bala, director-general of the Nigerian censorship board.
Bala had arrived in Toronto — I was told — with several of her colleagues from the censor’s office. I know for a fact that they watched the movie. I do not know for a fact that they all liked it. I cannot say if any one of them stood up when, as the end credits rolled, the audience rose and gave the film three standing ovations. But I do know that Bala was gracious enough to tell us after the screening how much she loved the movie. At no point did she express any reservations about the contents of the film.
It is now nearly eight months since Bala and her board first saw the movie in Toronto and a few weeks since she and her board have failed to issue “Half of a Yellow Sun” the certification that it needs — that the law requires it obtains before it can be shown in cinemas in Nigeria. . .”
Full story on CNN.com
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