Bandele died on Sunday in Lagos, Nigeria, according to a Facebook post from his daughter, Temi Bandele. A cause of death was not given.
“Biyi was a prodigiously talented writer and filmmaker, as well as a loyal friend and beloved father,” Temi writes in the post. “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.”
Bandele had recently finished his latest film entitled “The King’s Horseman.” Inspired by Nigerian Nobel Prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka’s anti-colonial play “Death and the King’s Horseman,” the drama is set to have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month. The Yoruba-language film was produced by Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Films for Netflix.
Speaking to Variety, Abudu described Bandele’s death as “totally unexpected and a real shock to us all.”
“He was over the moon about ‘Elesin Oba, The King’s Horseman’ premiering at TIFF, and of course we were all planning to be there,” she said, noting that the film was beloved by Bandele “more so than any of the other projects he had worked on with us.”
“He knew the source material well and was so excited when he heard about our selection at TIFF,” she added. “It’s so unfortunate that he will not be there to see the world enjoy a piece of his work that I know he was very proud of and so passionate about.”
Bandele also co-directed this year’s “Blood Sisters” for Netflix. The streamer’s first Nigerian original series follows friends Sarah and Kemi as they are forced to go on the run after a wealthy groom disappears during his engagement party. Netflix paid tribute to Bandele via a Twitter post, saying, “May he rest in power.”
“Biyi Bandele’s passing is a monumental loss to Nigeria’s film and creative industry,” the post reads. “He will be remembered as a powerhouse who made some of the finest films out of Africa.”
Bandele was born in 1967 in the small town in Nigeria called Kafanchan. He studied drama at Obafemi Awolowo University before he left Nigeria at age 22 for London. There, Bandele found a publisher and launched his career as a playwright with the Royal Court Theatre. On top of his extensive work on the stage, the creative also wrote screenplays for radio dramas and television. Eventually, the BBC picked up one of Bandele’s teleplays for its “Screenplay” anthology series and attached Danny Boyle — the future director of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours” — to direct.
In 2013, Bandele made his directorial debut with “Half of a Yellow Sun,” an adaptation of the 2006 novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The film starred Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandiwe Newton and Anika Noni Rose in a family drama set in 1960s Nigeria.
Bandele also helmed the 2015 romantic drama “Fifty” and several episodes of the African-set MTV series “Shuga.”
Christopher Vourlias contributed to this report.