Financing for playwright turned director Biye Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun has been finalized, thanks in part to the addition of internationally adored actress Thandie Newton to the cast. Screen Daily reports that the actress, who recently co-starred in Tyler Perry’s ensemble drama For Colored Girls, will join fellow Brits Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Redbelt) on location in Nigeria when the film goes into production in March.
Half of a Yellow Sun will be a war drama set amidst the backdrop of the Nigerian-Biafran War, a civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970 and may have killed upwards of 3 million people. Based on the Orange Prize-winning novel of the same name by heralded Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the film will explore the impact of this conflict through the interweaving stories of four socially stratified characters: a professor, a high-ranking political figure, a British citizen, and a young houseboy.
There’s no word on which roles Newton, Cooper, and Ejiofor are set to play. Yet it seems likely Ejiofor is slated to portray Odenigbo, the high-ranking official and Nigeria native, while Cooper is will play the Englishman Richard, who becomes romantically involved with the twin sister of Odenigbo’s girlfriend. This may mean that Newton is line up to play not one but two parts, the first being Olanna, Odenigbo’s lady-friend who forms a deep bond with the aforementioned houseboy, the second her rebellious twin sister Kainene, who seeks to escape her life of pretension and privilege through a torrid affair with a foreigner. If not, first-time filmmaker Bandele will likely struggle to find an actress that can match Newton for beauty and elegance. It’s unknown who will play the houseboy, Ugwu.
Half of a Yellow Sun was partially funded by BFI, and will be produced by Andrea Calderwood, the BAFTA-winning producer of The Last King of Scotland, and Gail Egan, whose The Constant Gardener drew Oscar acclaim. While it’s unlikely Half of a Yellow Sun would qualify as the kind of commercially viable film product British Prime Minister David Cameron would approve of, this sure to be harrowing war-drama seems destined for award season notice.