Five African novels adapted into movies | This is Africa


Five African novels adapted into movies

Here is a selection of five popular novels by African writers that have made the transition from print to film.



There has been talk recently of the adaptation of the Chimamanda Adichie short story, ‘On Monday of Last Week’, into a movie, which brought to mind her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, and other African novels that have found their way to the big screen.

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“Bidaya wa Nihaya”

Bidaya wa Nihaya” (A Beginning and an End) is a novel by Nobel Prize winning Egyptian writer, Naguib Mahfouz. The movie, like the book it was based upon, follows the tragic tale of an Egyptian family — a mother, daughter and three sons — after the death of its patriarch.  The movie was produced in 1960 and was directed by Salah Abouseif. It features popular Egyptian Hollywood actor, Omar Sharif, and was nominated for the Grand Prix award at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival in 1961.



“Half of a Yellow Sun”

Half of a Yellow Sun” is perhaps the most popular and critically acclaimed book by Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adichie. The novel tells the story of the Nigerian civil war through the experiences of several characters including lovers, Odenigbo and Olanna.  It was adapted into a movie of the same name by Nigerian writer/director, Biyi Bandele in 2013. The movie which was shot on locations in Nigeria features a number of local and international actors including Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Boyega, Thandie Newton, Genevieve Nnaji, Anika Noni Rose and OC Ukeje.

Cynthia Jele signing copies of her book  (Photo: Books LIVE/Flickr)

“Happiness is a Four-Letter Word”

Happiness is a Four-Letter Word” is a novel by South African writer, Cynthia Nozizwe Jele. The novel, which won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in the Africa region, follows the lives of three female friends trying to define and attain happiness individually. Production on the movie adaptation began last year with part funding by the National Film and Video Foundation . It’s directed by Thabang Moleya with screenplay written by Busisiwe Ntilintili.

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“Beasts of No Nation”

Beasts of No Nation“, is a 2005 novel by Uzodinma Iweala— borrows its name from a Fela Kuti album. The novel, like its 2015 movie adaptation, details the horrific experience of a child soldier, Agu, during war in an unnamed West African country. The film was written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and features Abraham Attah and Idris Elba. It premiered on Netflix in October 2015 and won the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival.


“My Life” trilogy

“My Life in Crime”, “My Life with a Criminal” and “My Life in Prison” is a crime fiction trilogy by Kenyan writer, John Kiriamiti. The trilogy is a fictionalised account of the author’s days as a criminal and his eventual imprisonment. The first novel in the set was published in 1984 and as of 2013, filming rights to the books had already been obtained. The movie is to be directed by Neil Schell.


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