Argo Films Partners with David Oyelowo’s Yoruba Saxon


Richard Johns’ Argo Films has teamed with David Oyelowo (Selma, Les Misérables, Spooks) and his Yoruba Saxon Productions for Biafra, a six-hour event series being developed with the BBC.

Set in the U.K. and Nigeria and told through the eyes of a young Black British woman, Biafra’s story unfolds across two main time lines—the present day and the 1967-70 Biafra War, a largely forgotten dark secret in the countries’ shared history. Bola Agbaje (Gone Too Far) is writing the script, and Ngozi Onwurah (Shoot the Messenger, Mama Africa) is attached to direct.

Executive producers for the series are Johns, Oyelowo, Turnover Films’ Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo (Rye Lane, Top Boy, Guerrilla) and Fremantle’s Christian Vesper (Top of the Lake, No Man’s Land). Fremantle is attached to the project as a strategic partner.

“My Nigerian heritage and desire to see African stories told at the highest level has led to Biafra being one of my most treasured projects,” Oyelowo said. “My parents married across the tabooed tribal lines of the Biafran conflict, and it shaped my life, much as it has done to millions of Nigerians. To be able to bring the amazing talents of director Ngozi Onwurah, who I first worked with on Shoot the Messenger, and writer Bola Agbaje, who I’ve been seeking to work with for quite some time, makes this the definition of a passion project for me.”

Johns said, “Britain and Nigeria have a hugely important, multi-layered and historic relationship, one that is very much alive today. With this series, we are setting ourselves the mission of telling an incredibly powerful story about discovering and reclaiming a lost identity and a forgotten history—all with a truly authentic West African voice. We are so lucky to be working with Bola, Ngozi, Yvonne and David to bring this story to the screen.

“Ultimately, this is a universal story about who we are and making sense of ourselves by knowing more about our ancestors and the world they lived and fought in. Biafra will be smart, thought-provoking, grounded in fact and gripping, while always accessible and entertaining; it promises to be a true landmark in limited-series storytelling. As Argo Films was established to cross boundaries and tell truly exceptional and authentic stories, I could not have wished for a better first scripted project.”

Vesper, president of global drama at Fremantle, added, “Fremantle is delighted to be a strategic partner with Argo Films alongside Yoruba Saxon on this series, and we are excited to begin conversations with potential co-production and presale partners around the world. Richard, David and the team are creating a unique drama that beautifully marries truth and fiction, family history with national history, working across different locations and timelines. These elements, combined with its universal themes about identity, family and belonging, will ensure Biafra becomes a hot property for international drama partners in 2023.”