The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) held its glitzy opening night gala last night at Queen’s Hall, marking the third year in a row that the Festival held its opening there, as well as the beginning of the 8th edition of the Festival.
The opening night film, Half of a Yellow Sun, directed by playwright-turned-filmmaker Biyi Bandele, is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Thandie Newton stars as Olanna and Anika Noni Rose as Kainene, educated and wealthy twin sisters of an influential Nigerian family. The film traces the path of their lives after they go their separate ways in a newly independent Nigeria during the 1960’s. The Biafran war teaches them that life is bigger than romantic indiscretions and the business of money as they get caught up in the violent struggle of the Igbo people. The film had its world premiere last week at the Toronto International Film Festival; this Caribbean premiere marked the second time that it has ever been shown to audiences.
Explaining the choice of the film to open the Festival, Jonathan Ali, editorial director of the ttff, said, “We chose Half of a Yellow Sun because it is an exciting, crowd-pleasing and well-made film from two of our heritage countries (Nigeria and the UK), with an international cast with wide appeal, including Thandie Newton and man-of-the-moment, Chiwetel Ejiofor.”
From the reaction of the full house at Queen’s Hall—incredulous gasps peppered with bouts of raucous laughter—the audience definitely seemed to enjoy the film.
Andrea Calderwood, the producer of Half of a Yellow Sun, attended the opening night as a special guest. She has won the British Academy of Film and Television Aware (BAFTA) for her work on The Last King of Scotland, starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy.
“This was a particularly challenging film to make,” she reflected during her introductory remarks. “I’ve made several films in Africa but they tend to be films that come in from the outside. They were stories that were told by filmmakers who were not from Africa and this is the first film that I’ve been involved in that really is a story from the inside.
“[The Biafran War] is a story that changed the history of Nigeria,” she continued. “So this seemed like a great opportunity to make an accessible, exciting, moving film that would tell everyone what happened.“
She also expressed how excited she was to have the film as the ttff/13 opening night selection.
“The possibility of having a Caribbean premiere seemed so far away and I cant quite believe we are standing here tonight. The trinidad+tobago film festival has been really instrumental in and supportive of the process [of making the film] and I am really delighted that you are the second audience in the world to see it.”
Presenting sponsor Flow was also at the gala, represented by Brian Collins, Managing Director of Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited.
Mr. Collins spoke about Flow’s role in the growth of the ttff and expressed his company’s continued support for the Festival.
“In addition to promoting the creation of new content, we actively support and promote the distribution of local content. Since coming on board [with the Festival] in 2010, Columbus Communications has provided distribution of local content, which allows filmmakers to host their work and gain exposure. Columbus will continue to stand by the ttff and we hope that the ttff continues to grow as it has over the years and continues to make an impact locally, regionally and internationally.”
After the screening of the film—which ended with a standing ovation—guests at the gala headed to Flair restaurant for an after-party, which went on well into the wee hours of the morning.
Image: Andrea Calderwood, producer of Half of a Yellow Sun, introduces the film at the ttff/13 gala opening