Prolific Filmmaker Biyi Bandele Dies at 54
By Vanessa Obioha
The creative industry was rocked by the demise of one of Nigeria’s prolific filmmakers Biyi Bandele on Monday night.
His death was announced by his daughter Temi via a Facebook post.
“I am heartbroken to share the sudden and unexpected death on Sunday, 7th of August in Lagos of my father, Biyi Bandele,” the statement reads.
Temi described her father as a prodigiously talented writer and filmmaker, as well as “a loyal friend and beloved father. He was a storyteller to his bones, with an unblinking perspective, singular voice and wisdom which spoke boldly through all of his art, in poetry, novels, plays and on screen. He told stories that made a profound impact and inspired many all over the world. His legacy will live on through his work.”
Born in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, on October 13 1967, Bandele studied Dramatic arts at the University of Ife and during his studies won the BBC Playwriting Competition. He moved on to London and worked at the Royal Court Theatre where the likes of Wole Soyinka built his career. There he met with a famous director Danny Boyle, who was back then just a stagehand. He started writing before the age of 12.
In a 2013 interview with THISDAY, Bandele revealed that he was inspired by the tales of the second world war which his father regales him with.
“When I was a child, I remembered war was something that sprang up a lot in conversations on the part of my dad who talked about the war like one big party. But my mum and grandmother would remind him of how he came back from Burma. He came back in a straitjacket. You know, he completely lost it. It was something that pained him for the rest of his life. He had one or two bullets that were left because it was safer where they were than trying to get them out. He had this recurring nightmare where he would wake up in a fit and we would have to restrain him because it would take him a few minutes before he realised he was not at war and somebody was not trying to kill him. That was probably one of the things that turned me into a writer,” said the late filmmaker.
From listening to the tales of war, and having lost a brother in the Nigerian Civil War, Bandele was able to write an intriguing novel, ‘Burma Boy’, a fiction inspired by his father’s boisterous narratives about the famous Burma expedition with the British army which he took part in and his own research in the British museum.
Bandele was famed for many film productions. He directed the third season of the MTV Shuga series and did the film adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s book on the Nigerian Civil War, ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’.
His latest work ‘Elesin Oba, the King’s Horseman’ (which he adapted from Wole Soyinka’s classic drama, Death and The King’s Horseman, and directed for EbonyLife Films is slated to be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF, in September.
Bandele also worked on other EbonyLife Films productions such as Fifty and directed a BBC special on the Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti titled ‘FELA – Father of Afrobeat (2018)’.
In the writing field, his works include ‘The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond’, ‘The Sympathetic Undertaker’, and ‘Yoruba Boy Running’.