“A prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house”

Some months ago, the first theatrical trailer for the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s award winning book was released. Although it didn’t seem entirely as Nigerian as I wanted it to feel with the faces I saw on my screen, I was excited to share it with a room full of friends in Lagos.  With the sparkling smile they have come to know me for, I exclaimed, “See what I mean when I say Nigerian movies are stepping up their game?”

The words had not totally found their way out of my mouth when a heated conversation erupted weighing the ‘Nigerianness’ of the movie adaptation of ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’. It didn’t help matters at all that the main cast was borderline Nigerian or that the trailer skipped most of the Nigerian cast, but the debate birthed my first post with the question: ‘Is Half of A Yellow Sun a ‘Nollywood’ film?’ I urge you to read it by clicking this link before going on.

Today, at the cusp of the release of the movie, excitement keeps bubbling in me and around me but the question on my mind has evolved. I am now more interested to know how much of a game-changer ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ can be to the Nigerian movie industry and what new horizons we should expect from our industry following its release.

Firstly, the movie, with a budget of ₦1.27 billion1 is Nigeria’s most expensive film yet (even ‘Render to Caesar’ with a ₦100 million budget cost less than 10% of this). Does this automatically mean it would be a fantastic movie? No. In fact big budgets can sometimes kill a movie…Do you remember a certain ₦200 million film we had not so long ago?

What a big budget does, however, is give the film creative freedom and resources to implement certain things a ₦10 million or ₦100 million movie may not be able to do.

Secondly, Nigeria and the rest of the world has had time since the release of the award winning book to fall in love with the amazing tale penned by Chimamanda Adichie. For lack of a better analogy, it is like a story of Nigeria’s very own ‘Harry Potter’ being adapted for the screen.

This second point is very important to me, as a major fault with a good number of Nigerian films is the quality of their plot. In a land, rich with history, tragedy, everyday struggles and miracles, most of our filmmakers have resorted in maintaining superficial narratives when it comes to the plots in their movies. ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’, however has most of this covered and the only question being asked is how well this awesome story has been adapted for the screen. The director, Biyi Bandele has done some good work with the MTV series ‘Shuga’ so I expect good things; on the other hand, early reviews have been mixed about the creative adaptation, although most acknowledge that the movie was well done.

Thirdly, the premiere schedule of ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ shows that it is going to be released in cinemas across four different continents between April and July 2014! Talk about showcasing Nigerian Cinema to the world!

With an international cast that includes ‘our very own’ Oscar Nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor , multiple award winner Thandie Newton, AMAA winner Genevieve Nnaji and AMVCA winner O.C Ukeje,  the formula seems right to throw a good spotlight on Nigerian Cinema. Right?

Let’s face it, Nigerian Cinema just like the nation has got terrible public relations within the nation and across international waters. ‘Nollywood’ has been described as an industry filled with low quality, shoddily made movies in more articles than I can mention here.

However, in more recent times, our movie industry has been described as one ‘in a transitional phase yet to square up to its international counterparts’. This analogy is quite accurate considering the industry has been on a steady rise in the quality of output for the past few years. Our filmmakers are now focusing on quality picture, sound editing, script, acting, score, and even plot.

Could ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ be the movie that throws a larger spotlight on that small set of Nigerian films such as, The Meeting, Phone Swap, Mr and Mrs, The Figurine, Render to Caesar, Ije, Zr-7 and Maami, to name a few that have gone the extra mile to ensure the industry progresses with the times and available technology?

Could ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ be the movie that improves the industry’s public relations and makes future releases like Dazzling Mirage, October 1, and 76 more desirable to watch by a wider audience population around the world?

Could ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ be the movie that provides the tipping point which opens ‘Nollywood’ up to investment and development opportunities.

I say yes but it all depends on how well we receive it as a nation.

The current highest grossing Nigerian movie made less than ₦100 million in Nigerian Cinemas….. That record needs to be demolished for ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ to get a good return on investment and it sure needs your help to achieve that.

No other nation can make this movie a success like we can and if any other country gives it a better reception than we do, it would definitely be a case of, ‘A prophet without honour in his own country and in his own house’.

So let’s make it a date on the 25th of April and flock to the cinemas with our friends, family, colleagues, and other Nigerians to throw our weight and support behind ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’. For the first time, let us give a Nigerian movie the chance to compete for top box office receipts like Hollywood movies do in our cinemas.

I know I’m going to make it a date…will you?

N:B Information recently released lays claim to the fact that ‘Nollywood’ (this actually represents motion pictures, sound recording and music production) generated revenue of about ₦9 trillion in 2013 with ₦1.72 trillion being contributed by the movie segment…… That’s just a fraction of the potential the industry has to offer if the cards are played right, don’t you think?

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