Interviews

‘The making of Half of A Yellow Sun movie’- Executive producer, Yewande Sadiku

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Yewande Sadiku, an investment banker with Stanbic IBTC Capital, Lagos, was called in 2008 to provide finance for the adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s book, Half of A Yellow Sun, into a film that would travel beyond Nigeria. And for four years, Yewande, whose husband, Muktar published the novel, engaged in courses in film financing, distribution and intellectual rights. She told ENCOMIUM Weekly how the movie was funded by her own money, her husband’s and some other investors, who took interest in the project.

Half of A Yellow Sun was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, Canada in September 2013. The Nigerian premiere is scheduled for April 2014.

Half of A Yellow Sun, directed by Biyi Bankole, features Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Onyeka Onwenu, Genevieve Nnaji, O.C Ukeje, Anika Noni Rose and others. The film is a love story that follows two sisters, who were caught up in the Nigeria civil war. The film was shot in five weeks in Tinapa Studios, Calabar and Creek Town, Cross River, Nigeria.          

How did you get involved in the movie, Half of A Yellow Sun?

The cast and crew

The cast and crew

It would appear strange, as an investment banker of many years, what would I be doing in the movie industry? I was introduced to the project to provide funds for the shooting and the total production. The journey was tough and as an investment banker, funding is my core area. I was reluctant. I never gave it a thought in the beginning because I am a busy woman. On the other hand, I thought funding wouldn’t be a problem. I would just call one or two investors and that was it, but I was wrong. Those I approached for funding would ask what will be their return and I had no explanation. I couldn’t convince them, so I decided to go abroad to study movie funding and interact with players. Each time I travelled, I would tell my boss it was for vacation and sometimes a course. I thought of giving up when I couldn’t raise the money.

When I spoke to Ben Bruce, he told me you are an investment banker, you have no problem with money. I thought it would fail. As at the time we wanted to start filming in Nigeria, we only had 10 percent of our budget. It took me four years to study film financing, distribution and intellectual property rights.  I wanted to understand the value chain. In 2012, we created a fund that attracted investors to finance the production. The effort paid off at the end.

The female lead cast is not Nigerian, what informed that?

The idea was to use cast that have international appeal. We are taking it around the world. Nigeria lacks the economic capacity to deliver the returns we need. However, we have Genevieve Nnaji, O.C Ukeje and Onyeka Onwenu as part of the cast.

Where was the movie shot?

Most of the scenes were shot in Calabar, Cross River State. The only scene shot in London was the first scene. So, the movie was shot in Nigeria and London.

What was the total budget for the movie production?

$10 million.

The movie poster

The movie poster

The posters for the premiere in Nigeria are somehow different from the ones you used abroad?

Yes, we have different posters for different locations. In Nigeria, we used Genevieve, O.C Ukeje, Onyeka Onwenu to appeal to the Nigerian audience.

There are war scenes in the movie, don’t you think that would rekindle memories of the Nigerian civil war?

The story itself is about love and not war. If you read the book, you will see that it is all about a love story during a war situation.

Half of A Yellow Sun is a love story in a war situation. That informs the caption on the poster, Divided by war, united by love.

The name of the town in that movie, Aba was mis-spelt?

Yes, in the movie the name of the place we referred to is spelt Abba and not the one we all know.

What is the involvement of the author of the book, Chimamanda in the movie?

Chimamanda is very much involved. She is the author of the book. She and Biyi Bankole know each other.

You are yet to recoup your investment in the movie. If at the end you are unable to make your money, would you in future invest in such venture?

I am like a pregnant woman. I will deliver when I am able to recoup my investment in the movie production and then I would decide whether to invest or not in future ventures. We have not made our money. The other investors are waiting.

 – FOLUSO SAMUEL

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