Research and impact | By Chris Lines

Impact: Documentary marks 50-year anniversary of the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War

The Nigeria-Biafra War was one of the most devastating conflicts of the 1960s, one that still casts its shadow over the lives of millions of Nigerians around the world. Dr Louisa Egbunike’s documentary offers a narrative of literary reflections from authors affected by the conflict.


In late January 2020, a sold-out Curzon Bloomsbury cinema hosted the launch of In The Shadow of Biafra, a documentary reflecting on 50 years since the end of the war.


Produced by Dr Louisa Egbunike, a Lecturer in the Department of English; and directed by filmmaker Nathan Richards, the film juxtaposes reflections by a cross-section of writers and academics who have lived through the conflict or have felt its impact on their families throughout their lives.


The film engages with how the war is remembered, the inheritance of trauma and the role writers played.

It includes interviews with authors including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Inua Ellams, Ernest Emenyonu, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Okey Ndibe, Obi Nwakanma, Nnedi Okorafor, Tochi Onyebuchi, Data Phido and the late Chukwuemeka Ike, who receives a dedication at the end.


After film screening, Dr Egbunike and Richards took part in a Q&A session, chaired by Sarah Ozo-Irabor, presenter of the Books & Rhymes podcast.


In response to a question about the contrasting opinions aired in the film, Richards said “there were a lot of tensions, which we put side-by-side”.


Dr Egbunike added “there end up being interesting conversations between people in the film [due to how comments are woven together]”.


For the filmmakers, the contradictions were an important part of the narrative. “The point is to not try to resolve the contradictions in what people say; instead, out of those contradictions comes a conversation” said Dr Egbunike. “By putting different interpretations alongside each other, in our way, we are trying to contribute to the conversation”.


Richards concurred and said “we weren’t doing a history. We were engaging with memory because that’s one way in which people deal with trauma”.

Dr Louise Egbunike and Nathan Richards at the screening of In The Shadow of Biafra at the Curzon Bloomsbury cinema.

Dr Egbunike summed up the importance of the film by noting that many parents and grandparents aren’t telling their children about the horrors of the war. “There hasn’t been a fully formed, developed notion of a national identity. There are still tensions along ethnic lines.


“When it comes to Biafra, part of the reason why there hasn’t been a public conversation is because those in power don’t necessarily want that conversation.


“Many people who were part of the war, don’t want to reckon with the history”.