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On the 7th of August, the Nigerian film industry lost Biyi Bandele. His impact, understated unfairly, has brought glory to the Nigerian film industry at large. Through diverse creative endeavors, one could feel the love and appreciation Biyi had for his culture. His works were openly political, touching extensively on sensitive themes of class, gender and other subject matters that demand the deftest of touches.
Here are 5 facts you may or may not have known about the Iconic man.
5) Hails from Abeokuta
Abeokuta, in all its glory, has proven over time to produce some of Africa’s most creative minds. From the world of literature to the world of music and film, Abeokuta has blessed Africa with the likes of Wole Soyinka, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Tunde Kelani. It brings no surprise that a mind as brilliant as the late Biyi Bandele would spring forth from there.
4) Published at Age 12
In this decade and age it will bring little to no surprise to hear a 12year old get his/her short story published in Nigeria, but back to in the 70’s or 80’s, a period of healing from the wounds of the Civil war, young Biyi was surprisingly able to get his short story published on the pages of a local newspaper in Kafancha, a place he lived the first 14years of his life. His short story Pickpocket tells a story of the crimes Biyi witnessed at a local train station he regularly passed in Kaduna.
3) A masterpiece of a debut…Half of a yellow sun
Biyi Bandele’s Directorial debut as a film director was the historical classic, Half of a Yellow Sun. The film, adapted from the award-winning Novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is beyond a doubt a gripping representation of the Nigerian Civil war. The film also remains the most expensive Nigerian film ever made till date, costing around $10million. The film also stars some of Hollywood’s finest African faces like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandi Newton.
2) Son of a World War II veteran
Biyi Bandele was the son of Solomon Bamidele Thomas a World War II veteran who was picked to join the army of 500,00 soldier from west Africa that went on to join the British army. This was a major factor that shaped Biyi’s world view growing up and added to his love for intriguing stories from an early young age. He went on to write a novel called Burma boy which is an account of his father’s experience during the war.
1) An all-round Storytelling creative
Biyi is popularly known in this part of the world as a filmmaker, but it is safe to note that Biyi is a multi-faceted man with a genuine love for the art of storytelling. From his short stories of which he started off with, Biyi secretly started writing his first novel at age 13 but went on to gain some popularity for his playwrighting after winning an International British playwrighting competition while he was back home in Nigeria. He went on to later publish some of his earlier written novels in the UK and worked with some of Britain’s finest theatre groups like the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Also, Biyi regularly took beautiful pictures of Isale Eko which he uploaded on Instagram. Accompanying these pictures were short captions that doubled ass sharp observations of the human condition.
Wrote a TV play for Danny Boyle
In the mid 90’s during Biyi’s successful career kickoff as a novelist and a theatre practitioner, he wandered into the world of TV and attended series of workshops for playwright as he sought to transition into TV. During one of his workshops, he was asked to write a scene for a TV-movie, a one-week assignment for the attendees. The following week Biyi came back with a full script for a Tv-movie, adapted off one of his published novella’s as of the time. The facilitators loved the script and commissioned it for a BBC production attaching the name of Danny Boyle who was during this time a highly demanded TV director. This was six months before Danny Boyle went on to make his feature debut as the director of Shallow grave.
It is sad enough that Nigeria has lost such a rare gem at a relatively young age, it is more saddening to have heard of his passing away just about a month to the release of his soon to be released film, Eleshin Oba: The King’s horseman, an adaptation of The Death and the Kings Horseman by Africa’s first Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka. Certainly, we can’t for the film’s release so we can honour the great mind behind the picture by watching a story he wanted to share with the world.
Eleshin Oba: The Kings horseman will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September. It is said to be the first Yoruba film to premiere at TIFF and will be released during the same month on Netflix.