Leap Frog nabs Half of a Yellow Sun

12 November, 2013 by Don Groves

Andrew Hazelton, Barbara Connell, Anika Noni Rose, Biyi Bandele, David Doepel


Upstart Australian distributor Leap Frog Films has acquired its third film, a drama set during the Nigerian civil war that tore the country apart from 1967-1970.

Based on a 2006 novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by Nigerian novelist and playwright Biyi Bandele, it stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Thandie Newton (The Pursuit of Happyness) as an upper class couple whose marriage is put to the test when war erupts. Anika Noni Rose plays the twin sister of Newton's character.

The producers are Andrea Calderwood (The Last King of Scotland) and Gail Egan (The Constant Gardener).

“We are thrilled to be able to bring this incredibly powerful and compelling story to Australia and New Zealand,” said David Doepel, Leap Frog Films MD, who plans to release the film in Oz on March 27 on about 40 screens with the potential to expand based on performance. “We are looking for good stories, well told, with heart and substance and this film really fits that bill.”

Leap Frog’s first acquisition was Wrinkles, a Spanish animated film directed by Ignacio Ferreras, a tale of life and friendship in an elders' care home, featuring the voices of Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine.

In Toronto the distributor snapped up The Sea, a drama based on a Booker prize-winning novel by John Banville, starring Ciaran Hinds, Charlotte Rampling, Rupert Sewell, Sinead Cusack and Natasha McElhone. It’s scheduled to open in May.

Los Angeles-based Andrew Hazelton, a former Roadshow Films and Greater Union executive, is spearheading acquisitions.

Doepel is a former ordained minister who spent 22 years in the US, including 10 years making educational documentaries. He also served as the Western Australian Government’s Trade Commissioner based in L.A.

He says he is looking to raise finance from private investors to fund Leap Frog Films’ acquisitions and to put up minimum guarantees, hoping this relatively low-risk investment will encourage investors to eventually contribute funds to enable his firm to embark on producing films.