Half of Yellow Sun is a historical drama that follows two British-educated Nigerian sisters in the years following independence. Now having a limited theatrical run, I saw it at AFI Fest 2013 with director Biyi Bandele and co-star Anika Noni Rose in attendance. Rose gives an astonishing performance as Kainene, the sister who favors mod clothes and English boys. She’s third billed after Chiwetel Ejiofor as revolutionary professor, Odenigbo and Thandie Newton as Kainene’s sister, Olanna. Whether any of them look particularly Nigerian is an open question but all three have African heritage and, most importantly, the star power to carry a movie. (“Nollywood” actors appear in the supporting cast.) Odenigbo is world’s away (literally) from Ejiofor’s Twelve Years a Slave character. He’s brilliant but retains some of the worst aspects of “traditional” male behavior, which repulses his fiancé, Olanna. He’s also under the thumb of his conservative mother who considers Olanna a “witch.”
She tries to be a good African wife but both sisters have strayed far from their roots, in particular the sexy Kainene who won’t give up her Englishman, Richard (Joseph Mawle). The relationship melodrama gives way to tense action in the second half as the revolution begins.