Acclaimed novelist and filmmaker Biyi Bandele has died, his family announced in a Facebook post late Monday.
Bandele, 54, was a prolific author, playwright and filmmaker whose work includes the adaptation of famed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.
His death was announced in a statement signed by his daughter Temi Bandele.
She wrote, “I am heartbroken to share the sudden and unexpected death on Sunday 7th of August in Lagos of my father Biyi Bandele.”
“Biyi was a prodigiously talented writer and film-maker, 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 which made a profound impact and inspired many all over the world. His legacy will live on through his work,” she wrote in the post.
Bandele was considered one of the finest filmmakers and storytellers of his generation.
In an interview with CNN in 2014, he said, “I knew I wanted to be a writer from when I was six. My dad took me to the local library. I was five or six, and I just fell in love with the books.”
Bandele grew up in the small northwestern Nigerian town of Kafanchan, Kaduna State, and left Nigeria at 22 after studying drama at Obafemi Awolowo University.
“I actually came [to London] because I’d been invited to a theater festival … within weeks, I had a publisher, not just in the UK but in Italy and in France and in Germany,” he told CNN.
“Then I got offered a job to be the literary editor of a weekly Nigerian newspaper in London so I had actually come with absolutely no intention of staying.”
Shortly after his arrival to the UK, his work was published and he received his first commission from the Royal Court Theatre where he was catapulted into the arts.
Three years later, Bandele wrote a screenplay which was picked up by the BBC, who attached a young up and coming director to it. His name was Danny Boyle.
“Working with Danny was a game changer. I wasn’t that interested at the time in actually directing anything but I watched Danny … it was a joy working with him,” he said.
Mo Abudu, founder of Ebony Life Studios and one of his long time collaborators told CNN they were preparing to debut their new film, Elesin Oba (The King’s Horsemen) at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September.
“He was so passionate about Elesin Oba, more so than any of the other projects he had worked on with us… and was so excited when he heard about our selection at TIFF. I am sad he will not be at TIFF and that he will not get to see how loved his last project was.”
Bandele also co-directed the Netflix hit Blood Sisters. The streaming platform paid tribute to him in a Twitter post calling his passing “a monumental loss to Nigeria’s film and creative industry.”
“Biyi Bandele’s passing is a monumental loss to Nigeria’s film and creative industry. He will be remembered as a powerhouse who made some of the finest films out of Africa. As we mourn him, we commiserate with his family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in power.”