In which African cinema blows up big.

Half of a Yellow Sun, a movie based on a best-selling novel of the same name by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, just might be the first African romance/historical drama that fully complies with Hollywood production values. This is not to say it is a bad movie, or that it might have been more authentic if it were much closer in story form and direction to Nollywood (Nigeria's indigenous film industry). No, Sun is a solid work of popular art all around and deserves a place with high-end pictures like Bille August's The House of the Spirits or, more recently, Deepa Mehta's Midnight's Children.

Set during the brutal Biafran War (1967–1970) and centered on a love affair between two black Nigerian intellectuals, Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Olanna (Thandie Newton), Sun is a film primarily made to answer once and for all a question that the 19th century, and particularly the German philosopher Hegel (who is mentioned in the film), once wondered: Do black Africans live inside or outside of history? Do they have a sense of time, or are they doomed to the eternal present? In short, can black Africans progress from a primitive state to a modern one?

Sun not only answers yes and more but also never ignores the entertainment needs of the masses. The film has a great story that never once loses momentum, art direction that's sumptuous, a period wardrobe that's convincing, extras who do not look like extras, special effects (explosions and so on) that look real, seamless editing, gorgeous cinematography, and actors with legit Hollywood star power. So yes, black Africans can have passionate romances, be caught up in a nation's history, and make a film that Hollywood can proudly call one of its own. recommended