1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

On the Half Of A Yellow Sun Set

Discussion in 'FILMMAKING, INDUSTRY, TECHNOLOGY' started by Sola, Oct 5, 2012.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Sola

    Sola Administrator
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2003
    Messages:
    21,373
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Words Tolu Ogunlesi

    “It sat here for five years, unused,” says set designer Andrew McAlpine. He’s taking us on a tour of Tinapa Film Studio, where the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun, the novel that earned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie an Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007, is being filmed. The studio was opened in April 2007 as part of the Tinapa Free Zone & Resort, located just outside Calabar.

    One story has it that Donald Duke, then Governor of Cross River State was inspired to build the studio when he found out how much Nigerians were spending to shoot in South Africa. Upon completion the studio promptly went into hibernation, as Tinapa struggled to attract the crowds of merchants, tourists, shoppers and filmmakers it was built for.

    Until Half of a Yellow Sun came along.

    rising_sun_01.jpg In spite of the lengthy spell of disuse McAlpine is clearly impressed by the structure. “The architecture is pretty impressive,” he says.

    There’s a lot more that impresses him about Calabar.

    “It’s amazing what you can find in Calabar,” he says. “There’s quite a rich culture of craftspeople still.”
    The crew, mostly from abroad, arrived in Nigeria at the beginning of April 2012, and spent three weeks building the set.

    Half of a Yellow Sun is set in Sixties Nigeria, and so there’s a lot of emphasis on recreating the atmosphere of that era. “Authenticity”, “detail” and “from the period” are the buzzwords around here.
    “You’ve got to remember, it’s fifty years ago, the colours were different back then,” says McAlpine.
    The cars too, were different. A light blue 1963-model Triumph, bought at auction in England, has been shipped in. It runs, and is used by Odenigbo, one of the lead characters. “We had to make a number plate for it,” says McAlpine.

    Props Master, Deryck Blake (Total Recall, X-Men), tells us he got “four [local] gentlemen in their eighties” to make the shields that the mobile police officers use. Most interesting was the fact that those craftsmen actually made shields for the police in the 1960s. “They made them very quickly; they knew exactly what to do,” Blake says.

    McAlpine shows us a props store, laden with lanterns, rusted bicycles, old telephone boxes, portmanteaus, umbrellas, baby frocks and woven police shields. He lingers on a pile of “incredible fabrics” – “We can’t get this in London, so we have to send it there.” Even though the movie is set in Nigeria, the filming is split between Nigeria and the UK; part of the funding is from the British Film Institute.

    Using locals as extras, crowd scenes were shot in Creek Town, 10 miles Northwest of Calabar, and one of Nigeria’s oldest settlements, dating back to the 15th century. Director Biyi Bandele says the town provided “incredible footage.”

    Half of a Yellow Sun covers the years preceding and during the Nigerian Civil War (alternatively known as the Biafran War), which pitted Nigeria’s Federal Government against the Southeastern part of Nigeria, which, propelled by murderous tension amongst Nigeria’s major ethnic groups, had broken away to form the Republic of Biafra.

    The novel’s main characters are University Professor Odenigbo, Olanna, his English-educated Nigerian girlfriend, Kainene, her twin sister, Ugwu, Odenigbo’s teenage houseboy, and Richard, Kainene’s English boyfriend.

    The scene being shot during our visit is set in Odenigbo’s house, on January 15, 1966, the day Nigeria’s post-independence parliamentary government was toppled by a military coup led by 29-year-old Major Kaduna Nzeogwu. Odenigbo is hosting a bunch of friends at home. In that charged atmosphere there’s not much else to discuss, beyond politics. “If we had more men like Major Nzeogwu in this country we would not be where we are today,” one of the guests says.

    As I watch take after take of this short scene, I marvel at the amount of patience anyone who hangs around film sets is required to possess.

    “On average [we shoot] three and half minutes of screen-time per [eleven-hour] day,” says Director of Photography John de Borman (current President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and whose credits include The Full Monty and An Education).

    Here in Calabar is gathered a star-studded cast, comprising Britons and Nigerians: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots, American Gangster, 2012, Salt); Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness), Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, For Colored Girls); Joseph Mawle (Women in Love, Game of Thrones); John Boyega (Attack the Block); Nigerian singer and actress Onyeka Onwenu, and Nollywood stars Genevieve Nnaji (described by Oprah Winfrey as Africa’s Julia Roberts) and Zack Orji.

    The scale of the operation looks staggering to me. Odenigbo and Olanna’s houses have been built full-scale within it. McAlpine shows us Odenigbo’s first. We enter through the kitchen, where stockfish, garri, beans and fruits sit on the table.

    “From the kitchen [Odenigbo] can see all the action in the [sitting room], and overhear,” says McAlpine.
    Olanna’s house is a pretty affair, luxurious in comparison to Odenigbo’s. Olanna’s got a bathtub, rigged so that the water actually runs.

    McAlpine points out the contrasts between the ambience in there and the “earth colours” of Odenigbo’s apartment. And both are designed with a theme of unobstructed sight in mind ““ the idea is that from one part of both apartments one is able to see clearly into the other parts. “You’re seeing through and through and through,” says McAlpine, which I take as a hint at one of the movie’s underlying themes.

    I find the costumes mind-blowing. Costume designer Jo Katsaras (her work on The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency earned her a 2009 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Costumes for a Series) tells us the story of how she acquired six thousand pieces of vintage clothing from an Indian trader in Johannesburg, years ago, long before seeing the movie script. Those clothes have now come in handy.

    “In my research, Africa in the Sixties was very western,” she says.

    She adds that much of the vintage stuff is now contemporary again. “I mean, you could wear that today,” she says, pointing to a multicoloured sleeveless maxi dress. She takes us from section to section: men’s clothes, women’s clothes, shoes, hats; everything painstakingly sorted by size.

    “Everything’s thought out and pre-planned,” Katsaras says. “Nothing happens by chance.” She shows us detailed notes – “costume breakdowns” – that set out what every actor will be wearing, per scene.
    And then there’s the vodka. But no, it’s not a perk. “We’ve spent a huge amount on vodka and we haven’t been drinking it.”

    The vodka, she says, does a great job deodorising the costumes and keeping them fresh. Many of the costumes have been specially ‘aged’ to reflect the fact that they’re worn by refugees.

    “Everything will look as if you’re in the heart of a Biafran refugee camp,” says McAlpine.

    After Calabar the cast moved back to England, to complete filming. The film is currently in post-production. McAlpine says CGI will be used to “extend” the filmed refugee camps.

    This is Director Biyi Bandele’s debut full-length feature film. He wrote the screenplay as well. He tells me that the only difference between shooting a 6-minute movie and a 2-hour movie is to do with “logistics” – otherwise “it’s exactly the same thing, really.”

    Half of a Yellow Sun’s Producers are Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan, producers of the Academy Award-winning The Last King of Scotland and The Constant Gardener respectively. Nigerians Muhtar Bakare (publisher of the Nigerian edition of Half of a Yellow Sun) and Yewande Sadiku are the Executive Producers. A press statement touts the film as “the first international production of this scale to be made by UK/Nigerian producers.” The bulk of the budget is reportedly being funded locally.

    Scheduled for release in 2013, Half of a Yellow Sun will no doubt bring a dark chapter of Nigerian history alive to an audience likely to be larger than the hundreds of thousands the novel has reached around the world.

    “It’s the first atrocity that was actually covered on television, and viewed around the world,” says McAlpine. “It’s a very significant part of history.”

    This may well turn out to be a significant moment for Tinapa Studio as well; a giant leap in its bid to become,in the words of the promoters, “the prime location in Nigeria and indeed the West African Region”, for filmmaking.

     
  2. Village-Boi

    Village-Boi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    5,018
    Likes Received:
    527
    Quite interesting; can't wait to see this!
     
  3. mamazita!

    mamazita! Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Messages:
    352
    Likes Received:
    71
    Tinapa is too expensive for the average Nollywood producer. And Calabar is pretty far from Lagos where most producers shoot and even from Asaba and Enugu. So logging expensive equipment, cast and crew from those cities on our unmotorable, dangrous roads (fraught with accidents and thieves) is not really going to happen at least for now. And Airfare is the main preserve of the producer and major cast (at about N50,000 each for a return ticket you cant blame him/her) Perhaps if the studio had been somewhere more central and way way cheaper than it would receive the patronage it desires.
     
  4. Village-Boi

    Village-Boi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    5,018
    Likes Received:
    527
    Totally right. Concerning 'Nollywood' it's in the middle of 'nowhere'... very odd place to build it me thinks.
     
  5. tunmi

    tunmi Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    996
    Likes Received:
    76
    I like that locals in Naija are used. So Tinapa is a bit expensive, let our filmmakers be a bit more creative. That one place is expensive doesn't mean more can't be made
     
  6. Village-Boi

    Village-Boi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    5,018
    Likes Received:
    527
    Location, location, location... I bet if it were in Lagos and still at the same price they would be using it almost daily.
     
  7. Dsampler

    Dsampler D. Ultimate Naija Ruler

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Messages:
    7,175
    Likes Received:
    153
    I just wanna say,....Genny looked extremely gorgeous in the group photo. Just saying..............
     
  8. mamazita!

    mamazita! Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Messages:
    352
    Likes Received:
    71
    My sentiments exactly! I guess he did it in the bid to draw the film community to Calabar, which is laudable but I dont think very plausible. Film makers always think about cost all the time... would like to see how Half Of A Yellow Sun pans out. Sure it will be good.

    It was actually an international film that just happened to be shot in Nigeria. All the cast and crew were brought in from the U.K. All 300 of them,(with the exception of a few cameos by Genny, Onyeka, Zach) Even their water was imported! Certainly didnt add anything to the local economy. Especially when the money used to shoot the film was raised from here in Nigeria... but no wahala... Would like to see if this turns out to be our 'Slum Dog Millionaire or 'Last King of Scotland'.
     
  9. Village-Boi

    Village-Boi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    5,018
    Likes Received:
    527
    Fingers crossed Half Of A Yellow Sun turns out to be a darn good film. I read somewhere even the State Govt. chipped in to help the film out; maybe they got a lower studio rate. Na wa o... so even their water was imported??
     
  10. mamazita!

    mamazita! Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Messages:
    352
    Likes Received:
    71
    Yep! And the State Government eventually pulled out .... when they saw their indigenes were not benefitting much. I don't have a problem with foreigners coming in to shoot but I think if you are going to do it you should involve the local economy or what is the point? Many give the excuse that our local hands are not up to standard but I say, hogwash! That's not true and even if you think so what about training or allowing them understudy you? The beauty of Nollywood for me is that it empowers and employs hundred of locals in the community. Imagine how much money those local villages get for allowing 'epic' films to be shot there? So to come in from the UK shoot everything yourself, train no one and give all the major Hollywood stars the megabucks is not very nice. But then our Government should have enforced it somehow. Anyway, no doubt the film will be nice technically and otherwise... will still go and watch it.
     
  11. Village-Boi

    Village-Boi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    5,018
    Likes Received:
    527
    That is such a shame... they should have outsourced some stuff to the locals.
     
  12. Sola

    Sola Administrator
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2003
    Messages:
    21,373
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Precisely. Any film investor should use what's best for his movie to make it fine and profitable. It is not charity and they are not in the business of lifting up local economies. The governmental agencies, on the other hand, are supposed to make this stipulations and require them to do certain things. If they fail to do their part, it is not the external producer's issue.

    Sometimes, you also overlook things like that to encourage more of such filming in the country before you start making demands. When it grows enough and word of mouth has given you some additional leverage, you kick in some conditions. Conditions, if not properly handled, can cut off such prospects from infancy...and this effort is infancy.
     
  13. tunmi

    tunmi Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    996
    Likes Received:
    76
    Well yeah. While it's a bit distasteful (to even import the water sef) I think they are thinking in the long run. This move sounds like a free ad space and with the next person to work with them (the Calabar govt) they can impose conditions like Sola said
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page