The Half of a Yellow Sun movie release in Nigeria remains a fascinating story. For weeks, there have been many versions of what has happened to the movie’s cinema release originally scheduled for the 25th of April, 2014.
Just like yourself, I have been puzzled about why (The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board) NFVCB has refused to let Nigerians watch this movie.
It turns out, the film distribution and producers of the movie are equally as ill-informed as the public. Till date, NFVCB has refused to give any explanation as to the reasons for the movie’s delay even to the filmmakers.
NFVCB, (according to a letter received at the NFVCB office in Abuja (attached), despite requests for several screenings & other requests has refused to give the makers of the movie a formal response on the status of its application for classification.
The letter signed by Mr. Kene Mkparu was sent to the DG, NFVCB, Ms Patricia Bala.
You will be shocked by what you will read, see full letter below:
Ms Patricia Bala
National Film and Video Censors Board
Plot 20, Alexandria Crescent,
Wuse II, Zone A7
Wuse, Abuja FCT
RE: REQUEST FOR FORMAL FEEDBACK FOLLOWING CLASSIFICATION SCREENINGS OF THE FILM “HALF OF A YELLOW SUN”
We write in respect of the above subject and further to our previous correspondence to the National Film and Video Censors Board (the “Board”), dated 30thof April 2014, on the same matter.
Following our application to the Board for classification of the film “Half of a Yellow Sun” (“the Film”) made on the 10th of April 2014, the certification screening on 11th of April and the screening for State Security Service (SSS) on 1stof May 2014, we hereby write toexpress our dismay about the delay in receiving a formal response from the Board on the status of our application or determination of same.
We have carefully followed all necessary procedures and processes required for the classification of a film pursuant to the National Film and Video Censors Board Act (the “Act”). We have also endeavoured to accommodate the extra requirements which have been issued to us by the Board in our efforts to get the film classified, including arranging multiple classification screenings of the film at the request of the Board, and attending a stakeholders meeting. Accordingly, we struggle to understand why after over 5 weeks since the first screening and almost 3 weeks since the second screening, we are yet to receive any formal response on the status of our application from the Board.
As is the usual practice of the Board, we had expected to receive a rating for the Film within 2 days of the certification screening, which was 2 weeks before the planned Nigerian public release date of 25th of April. As you can imagine, substantial financials costs had been incurred to raise public awareness of the release of the Film in Nigeria, a campaign that we launched in line with the standard market practise extended to films which are only available for certification screening in Nigeria close to the release date.
As previously stated, as Distributors of the Film in Nigeria, FilmOne has a responsibility to the Producers of the Film to explain the reason for the delay and we have not been able to provide a cogent reason due to a lack of formal communication from the Board. In turn, the Producers of the Film have to answer to the investors and financiers of the Film and the delay in the public release in Nigeria, upon which investment repayments have been hinged, can still not be properly explained.
The continued unexplained delay in getting a formal response from the Board suggests that the Film has been banned even though there has been no formal communication to this effect.
As you may be aware, this Film was largely financed by several Nigerian individual and institutional investors, including Bank of Industry (“BOI”), an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the Cross River State Government. As you are also aware, the Film is based on a globally celebrated book written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award winning Nigerian author, and has been widely available in Nigeria since it was published in 2006; the Film is pitched as a love story based on the relationships between the 4 principal characters against the backdrop of the Nigerian civil war.
We had hoped that the financing structure that was used for this Film will serve as a template for the future funding of bigger budget productions in Nigeria, and further improve the ability of Nigerian film makers to access the much needed investment required to improve production values. We believe that the growing international profile of the Film and the continued inability to show it in its home market will damage the reputation of the Nigerian film industry and make accessing future capital difficult. It also has a damaging effect on the financial prospects of the Film, and the credibility and reputation of the investors (including BOI), the Producers, and FilmOne as Distributor. There are also substantial financing costs which continue to accrue on account of the delay in the release of the Film in Nigeria.
The Film is the biggest scale production to ever come of out Nigeria: it is about a Nigerian subject, with Nigerian characters, based on a globally celebrated Nigerian book. It was directed by a Nigerian, was filmed in Nigeria and is largely funded by Nigerian investors. We believe the Film demonstrates what is possible in Nigeria’s film industry with appropriate funding and technical input.
Since its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2013, the Film continues to be well received abroad. We understand from the Producers that the Board was invited to the Toronto Premiere and that the DG and the Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada witnessed the public reception and the standing ovation that the Film received there. We are particularly delighted with the Film’s performance abroad: the Film is still showing in Odeon cinemas in London 5 weeks after the UK release and has been well received since its US public release on 19 May. We are very anxious to give the Nigerian public an opportunity to watch the Film in the same form in which it is being enjoyed by audiences in other countries.
The Producers have informed us that they are already exploring alternative measures towards the resolution of this quandary, as they believe the delayed classification of the Film is injurious to their investment in the short term and is damaging in the long term to investments in the Nigerian film industry.
We hope to get a speedy response to this letter, to enable the public release of Half of a Yellow Sun in Nigeria.
FOR: THE FILMONE DISTRIBUTION LIMITED