LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The Nigerian civil war movie “Half of a Yellow Sun” will finally premier in its home country in August, the film’s producer announced Tuesday. The move came after Nigerian censors had earlier refused to approve it, saying the movie could undermine national security.
The censors had demanded cuts and it was unclear Tuesday what changes were made to satisfy the National Film and Video Censors Board.
The movie is an adaptation of a novel by award-winning writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that has been read by millions since it was published in 2006. But many more millions of illiterate Nigerians will be able to appreciate it now through the movie.
The movie is partly set in the 1960s during Nigeria’s civil war, which remains a subject so sensitive that it is not taught in Nigerian schools. Many commentators on social media suggested the censors were afraid that the film could inflame tribal rivalries.
The movie also comes as Nigeria is confronting an Islamic uprising that threatens to tear the country apart as tensions increase between Muslims and Christians, who make up almost equal parts of Nigeria’s 170 million people.
The censors’ board confirmed it has cleared the movie for viewing by people over 18.
It stars Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, the lead actor in “12 Years a Slave,” and Thandie Newton and was supposed to premiere in Nigeria on April 25. The day before, the censors said it had not been cleared.
“Half of a Yellow Sun” already has been shown to audiences in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
A statement from producers Shareman Media and FilmOne Distribution announced the Aug. 1 premiere and thanked Nigerians for their patience.
About 1 million people died in the war for an independent Biafra for the Igbo people of the southeast. Many Igbos starved to death because food imports were blocked. At the time, leaders of the Igbo, who are almost exclusively Christians, accused the federal government of failing to protect them when Muslims from the Hausa tribe in the north slaughtered about 30,000 of them.
The ethnic tensions and mistrust that led to that war remain strong.
Today, some northern leaders accuse the federal government, led by a Christian southerner, of orchestrating mass killings of Muslims by soldiers in the northeast. And thousands have died in ongoing conflicts over land and resources across central Nigeria that pit mainly Muslim Fulani herders against predominantly Christian farmers from other tribes.
British-Nigerian director Biyi Bandele in May defended his movie, telling The Associated Press it is not a war film.
“This movie is a sort of love story, a love letter to Nigeria’s very complex and complicated history,” he said. “It was meant to be a cautionary tale to say we can disagree as much as we want but war is never the answer.”