'Half of a Yellow Sun' film to premier in Nigeria, months after censors demanded cuts, edits

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By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — "Half of a Yellow Sun" finally will premier in its home country in August, the film's producer and distributor announced Tuesday of the movie that Nigerian censors earlier refused to clear, arguing that it could undermine national security. The censors demanded cuts and edits.

It was unclear what changes were made to satisfy the National Film and Video Censors Board.

The movie is partly set in the 1960s during Nigeria's civil war, which remains a subject so sensitive that it is not taught in Nigerian schools. Many commentators on social media suggested the censors were afraid that the film could inflame tribal rivalries. The movie also comes as Nigeria confronts an Islamic uprising that threatens to tear the country apart as tensions increase between Muslims and Christians who make up almost equal parts of the population of 170 million in Africa's most populous nation.

The censors' board confirmed it has cleared the movie for viewing by people over 18.

It stars Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, the lead actor in "12 Years a Slave," and Thandie Newton and was supposed to premier in movie houses across Nigeria on April 25. The day before, the censors informed the distributors that it had not been cleared for viewing. "Half of a Yellow Sun" already has been shown to audiences in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

A statement from producers Shareman Media and FilmOne Distribution announced the premier on Aug. 1 and thanked Nigerians for their patience.

The movie is an adaptation of a novel by award-winning writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that has been read by millions of Nigerians since it was published in 2006. But many more millions of illiterate Nigerians will be able to appreciate it through the movie.

About 1 million people died in the war for an independent Biafra for the Igbo people of the southeast. Mainly Igbos starved to death because food imports were blocked. Then, leaders of the Igbo, who are almost exclusively Christians, accused the federal government of failing to protect them when Muslims from the Hausa tribe in the north slaughtered about 30,000 of them.

The ethnic tensions and mistrust that led to that war remain strong. Today, some northern leaders accuse the federal government, led by a Christian southerner, of orchestrating mass killings of Muslims by soldiers in the northeast. And thousands have died in ongoing conflicts over land and resources across the central part of the country that pit mainly Muslim Fulani herders against predominantly Christian farmers from other tribes.

British-Nigerian director Biyi Bandele in May defended his movie, telling The Associated Press that it is not a war film: "This movie is a sort of love story, a love letter to Nigeria's very complex and complicated history, and it was meant to be a cautionary tale to say we can disagree as much as we want but war is never the answer."

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