Thandie Newton cast in film about Biafran War. Critics: she’s “bi-racial” and “not Igbo”

I’ve never been able to finish Chimamanda Adichie’s second novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun”–set during the Biafran War in the late 1960s– despite the fact that it won high praise from mainstream Western critics. See here, here and here. Anyway, by the time I might actually finish it, the film version will probably be in theaters. The Nigerian-British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (highlights: Dirty Pretty Things and Inside Man) has already agreed to star in the film adaptation, alongside with Dominic Cooper (Captain America). This week Screen Daily reported that Zimbabwean-Brit actress Thandi Newton (credits: Crash, Mission Impossible) will be a female lead. Not everyone is happy with the choice of Newton as a female lead. There’s already a strange online petition to have Newton replaced with a Nigerian actress. The petition notes, among others, that “… Igbo people do not look like the bi-racial Thandie Newton.” You can read similar comments on posts about Newton’s casting at the popular film blog Shadow and Act here and here.

* Btw, separate from casting issues, the previous credits of the two producers of “Half of a Yellow Sun” include “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Constant Gardener,” both films noted for their problematic treatments of African subjects. As for Ejiofor, he has played Africans on screen before. In “Dirty Pretty Things” he was excellent as an African migrant caught up in the goings on at a seedy London hotel, while in the not-so-good “Red Dust” he played an activist appearing before South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He has also played Thabo Mbeki in the made-for-TV movie “Endgame.”

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