Ejiofor clears air on Nigerian identity; as Half of a Yellow Sun readies for nationwide premiere April 25

Posted: April 17, 2014 in art/entertainment
(L-R) Biyi Bandele, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrea Calderwood

(L-R) Biyi Bandele, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrea Calderwood

Following the mounting controversy trailing Chiwetelu Umeadi “Chiwetel” Ejiofor’s alleged denial of his Nigerian heritage, the Hollywood rave of the moment has restated his unflinching bond with his Nigerian roots.

Ejiofor, OBE who used the auspicious occasion of the media premiere of the movie Half of a Yellow Sun, in which he also plays the lead role, to distance himself from stories making the rounds abound his identity, said he remains attached to his Nigerian heritage..

The media premiere of the movie, Half of a Yellow Sun, took place Friday at the Silverbird Cinemas, Victoria Island, Lagos followed by a press conference at the Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos that attracted the cast and crew of the movie including Ejiofor and Briton Thandi Newton, the support star.

“I remember when somebody asked me where I’m from and off the top of my head, I replied London without thinking much into it and that’s basically because I‘ve lived here for years now. It was a simple reply but it elicited so much surprise reactions as some people interpreted it to mean I was denying my Nigerian identity.

“Unfortunately I’m British since I hold that passport but if you asked me where I was born, I’d say Enugu, in Nigeria that’s where I was born and raised. For some of us born here and who have had to go outside and become members of the Diaspora, it’s the same situation we always find ourselves but Nigeria has a rich heritage and culture. Of course I’m Nigerian. It’s my life, my heritage, my history, my family and everything, of course I love Nigeria,” said Ejiofor.

Ejiofor whose recent work 12 Years a Slave won the best picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards, also saw the film claim the headline prize at this year’s ceremony.

12 Years a Slave which was nominated in almost all the categories of the awards therefore becomes the first film from a Black director to take the best picture Oscar.

Directed by Steve McQueen, the landmark slavery drama stars Ejiofor as a free man kidnapped and sold to slave-owners in 19th-century Louisiana. It was based on the bestselling memoir by Solomon Northup, first published in 1853.

Ejiofor, has till date received numerous awards and nominations, including the 2006 BAFTA Awards Rising Star, three Golden Globe Awards’ nominations and the 2008 Lawrence Oliver Award for Best Actor for his performance in Othello. He has starred in Salt and a lot of other big-budget Hollywood films.

These include: Deadly Voyage, Amistad, G:MT – Greenwich Mean Time, Dirty Pretty Things, Twelfth Night, or What You Will, Love Actually, She Hate Me, Red Dust Melinda and Melinda, Four Brothers, Serenity, Slow Burn, Kinky Boots, Inside Man, Children of Men, Luke, Tsunami: The Aftermath, Talk to Me, American Gangster, Redbelt, Slapper, Endgame, 2012, Salt, Tonight at Noon, The Shadow Line

Note that Ejiofor played the lead alongside John Cusack in the 2009 film 2012. The film went on to gross over 700 million dollars, and is among the list of highest-grossing films of all time and placing 5th of top films of 2009.

Meanwhile, Shareman Media, the Nigerian producer, and FilmOne Distribution, the Nigerian distributor of the feature film Half of a Yellow Sun, have announced that the highly-anticipated film will be released in all Nigerian cinemas on Friday, April 25.

Half of a Yellow Sun had its world premiere at the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Canada to great applause, and subsequently premiered in Europe at the BFI London Film Festival, London. The Film released in cinemas in Australia March 27, in the United Kingdom April 11, will be released in the United States later this year.

Directed by the Nigerian playwright, Biyi Bandele, Half of a Yellow Sun stars the BAFTA Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and BAFTA Award-winning actor Thandie Newton. Genevieve Nnaji, Onyeka Onwenu, O. C. Ukeje, Zack Orji and Anika Noni Rose led the supporting cast.

Set in 1960s Nigeria, Half of a Yellow Sun is an epic love story, weaving together the lives of four people caught up in the turbulence of the Nigerian civil war. Half of a Yellow Sun is set to strike a special chord with movie-goers nationwide.

Film is a beautifully crafted adaptation of the international bestselling novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Half of a Yellow Sun was shot in the Tinapa Studios in Calabar and in various locations in Creek Town, and employed several hundreds of local residents.

The technical quality of the Film demonstrates that it is possible to make a high quality production in Nigeria with the appropriate budget and technical input. The Film was officially invited to screen at several high-profile international film festivals in recognition of its ground-breaking quality.

The bulk of the funding came from Nigeria, and the film was shot in Nigeria, with large numbers of Nigerian cast and crew. The success of the Film will require the support of all Nigerians, to ensure that many more projects that “tell our own stories” can access the required funding.

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