ABUJA, Nigeria–Nigerian censors on Friday approved the release of the civil war film “Half of a Yellow Sun” after a more than two-month delay during which the producers agreed to edit certain scenes. The film, based on the best-selling novel of the same name and starring Oscar-nominated British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, is about the 1967-1970 Biafra War that killed more than a million people, many from starvation. Already showing in Britain and the United States, the film’s Nigeria release had been set for April, but hours before its first scheduled public screening, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) blocked the release citing “regulatory issues.” Writing for the New Yorker magazine’s website in May, the novel’s author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said the authorities were concerned about a scene in the film adaptation depicting the massacre of Christians from the Igbo ethnic group by Muslim Hausa tribesman at a northern Nigeria airport.
The southeast, which is dominated by Igbos, cited such massacres as a key reason for their region’s unilateral declaration of independence, a move the sparked the civil war.
The NVFCB has never clearly spelt out its opposition to the film, but said in a statement on Friday that “Half of a Yellow Sun” had been approved for release.
Censors board spokesman Caesar Kagho told AFP he could not go into detail about what was removed from the film and why.
Kene Mkparu of Filmhouse Cinemas, which is distributing the film in Nigeria, told AFP changes were made from the version shown in the West, but declined to be specific.
“We didn’t have to change the essence of the film, but we complied with what they asked us to do,” he said.
Ejiofor, who was nominated for Best Actor at this year’s Academy Awards for his role in “12 Years a Slave,” which picked up Best Picture, stars opposite British actress Thandie Newton in “Half of a Yellow Sun.” The southeast’s attempt to create an independent Igbo-led nation, which they called Biafra, was crushed by British-backed federal forces which had military superiority and used scorched earth tactics, including the blockage of all food imports to the breakaway region. More than four decades on, the Biafra War remains a highly contentious subject in Nigeria, with some marginal Igbo groups still calling for independence.