Yet another African novel makes a bold entrance into Hollywood.
Way back in 2013, Deadline announced that Cary Fukunaga, the director of the critically acclaimed HBO show, True Detective, was teaming up with Idris Elba to film Uzodinma Iweala’s war drama titled Beasts of No Nation.
Word has just come through that the project is done and that Netflix, the US media-buying giant, has purchased the worldwide rights for 12 million dollars. The rights covers online streaming and theatrical release.
Those of you who know your Fela would recognise the phrase, “beast of no nation.” It’s the title of Fela’s 1989 album. Iweala, a Harvard-trained Nigerian novelist, clipped the title for his 2005 novel about a child soldier, named Agu, in an unnamed war torn West African country. Beast of No Nation, alongside Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Chris Abani’s Graceland, and Habila’s Waiting for An Angel, spearheaded the big comeback of Nigerian fiction on the global literary scene.
This is such exciting news.
Apparently, Netflix is really hoping that the movie catches the attention of the Oscar committee, so they’re putting all their weight behind the it.
Netflix is yet to announce a release date. But since they’re hoping to get it out in time for the Oscar season, later this year is a good enough guess.
Fingers crossed. There are African literary critics who don’t care for Iweala’s novel, citing it as a classic example of the “poverty porn” genre. Add to this the fact that Hollywood doesn’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to representing the continent.
Either way, it’s one more African novel making its way to the big screen. Definitely worth celebrating.
Of course, we’re also looking forward to Adichie’s Americanahstarring Lupita Nyongo and David Oyelowo and Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls optioned for TV by Leonardo Di Caprio’s media company.
Brittle Paper is an African literary blog featuring book reviews, news, interviews, original work and in-depth coverage of the African literary scene. It is curated by Ainehi Edoro and was recently named a ‘go-to book blog’ by Publisher’s Weekly.
You either love sci-fi movies or you hate them – but a sci-fi love story based in Ethiopia? That’s sure to pique everyone’s curiosity.
Directed by Miguel Llansó, Crumbs is a a Spanish-Ethiopian co-production that premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January.
From Indie Wire: “Crumbs tells the story of diminutive superhero Gagano (played by Daniel Tadesse), a junk collector, who embarks on a ‘surreal epic journey’ that’s set against ‘post-apocalyptic Ethiopian landscapes’. He’s had enough of collecting ‘valuable crumbs of a decayed civilisation’, when a spaceship that has been hovering high in the sky for years, starts showing signs of activity, and Gagano has to overcome his fears – which includes a witch, Santa Claus and second-generation Nazis – to find out that the world isn’t quite what he thought it was.”
The Last Fishing Boat, a film by Shemu Joyah, is about the clashing of cultures when a white tourist makes sexual overtures to a Malawian woman who is the third wife of an illiterate but proud fisherman.
Shot on the shores of Lake Malawi in Mangochi last year, the film recently won yet another prize – this time at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival in California . It picked up the award for the Best Narrative Feature Film.
Earlier this year The Last Fishing Boat bagged the Best Soundtrack award at the Africa Movie Academy Awards, where it received five nominations.
“Satché must die by the end of the day.” Such is the surrealist Senegal of Alain Gomis’s Tey (Today), a toast to life through an exploration of its morbid counterpart. The latest from the French-Senegalese director is a diasporic tale of the final day in the life of Senegalese returnee Satché, played by Saul Williams, who has been away from his community after years of living in the US.
Tey makes its American theatrical debut on October 6, at New York’s Mist Harlem Cinema, and will thereafter run in selected theaters through a “hybridised, community-driven model.”
Said BelleMoon Productions founder Guetty Felin on the importance of reaching out to smaller markets: “The hybridised model for releasing Tey is really about ‘cutting our cloth’ as my mentor often says. We know our film very well, we know who is sensitive to this sort of cinema and who isn’t. It is definitely not mainstream.”
“Neither Alain nor Saul or my company BelleMoon productions for that matter, is mainstream. This is an independent foreign film with subtitles, and black … We’re not going to break box office with it and that’s not truly our main goal. We’ve figured out who our audience or community was for the film and we are basically bringing the film to them, whether it is through a small theatrical release, college [and] university screenings or community screenings.”
While living in Dakar during filming did you relate to Satché’s experience in terms of diaspora-related disconnect with Senegal?
I’ve lived between Dakar and Paris for 20 years now. I was saying with this film, like Satché, this is my place, this is my present. In fact I don’t have any patriotic feeling for no country. My land is in Guinea Bissau, my fights, my dreams are in Senegal, my cinema, my family, my loves, are everywhere. Even in my little family village in Guinea Bissau, I don’t know no pure people. As soon as you understand that everybody is fighting in his own body, you deal with human beings with fundamentally [the] same type of doubts. I am a filmmaker, I’m dealing with souls, I’m disconnected everywhere, and connected everywhere, just like Satché.
What about your experience with film, if anything, made you realise the necessity of a hybridised, community-driven model of distribution? Is there anything about this film in particular that would make such a model a goal?
Maybe each time that you’re trying to make something different, I mean with a free and no marketed form, you also have to imagine new ways to reach people, especially with an African film. Africa is like another planet for a lot of people. With this film we have organised special nights – “ciné-concerts” – in theatres, in underground places, in concert halls … trying to reach all kinds of audiences … from Addis Ababa to Sydney. We had wonderful experiences and above all, it is fun to do, travel with a film just like a band in tour. And people are surprised, because this film is about us, wherever you come from. In the Q&A people talk about themselves.
Has your attitude toward death changed as a result of your work on Tey? Yes. One of the reasons I’ve made this film was to face my own fear of death. It has become a reality. And if your death becomes a reality, your life becomes a reality. It’s a film about life.
What music would you listen to if you knew today was going to be your last day to live?
I know now, that is something you can’t predict. I have to make my life connected with my present. My last days have started 40 years ago. Every second is my last one. Today I have listened to Baloji.
Chased by a lynch-mob, a young man runs for his life – closely watched by director Philippe Lacote who is shooting the first feature film on the bloody chaos that rocked his native Côte d’Ivoire from 2002 to 2011.
Run, both the film title and the main character’s name, chronicles the slide from innocence to violence and crime in this resource-rich country that was once a beacon of stability in west Africa. Today, the wounds of war remain raw, politicians still trade crude insults and the former president awaits trial for crimes against humanity.
“The film’s main question is, ‘How did we come to such violence?'” said the Franco-Ivorian director, lamenting the thousands of people killed during a decade of rebellion, civil war and post-election violence.
Lacote, who finished shooting in September, hopes his film will be both cathartic for victims of the crisis and instructive for younger Ivorians, but also revive cinema in a country where only two of the 80 movie houses are still in use.
His project drew attention when presented in pre-production at the 2012 Cannes film festival. And while the film has touched some nerves at home, the state has agreed to finance seven percent of its €1.8-million (R24-million) budget, with the rest coming from France and Israel.
The buzz has also brought native son Isaach de Bankole – who appeared in the 2006 James Bond thriller Casino Royale and Lars von Trier’s 2005 film Manderlay – back home for the first time in 17 years to play a role in Run.
Based on real events
The story centres around a peaceable teenager who is on track to become a village “rainmaker” or sorcerer but instead joins the Young Patriots, followers of the former president Laurent Gbagbo who are capable of extreme violence.
“When I was filming the Young Patriots, I asked one of the youths how he came to join them,” says the 42-year-old Lacote of an earlier documentary. “He answered, ‘I have three lives!’ – and that became the basis for writing the film.”
Although fiction, Lacote’s film is grounded in real events. “There are scenes that remind me exactly of what I lived through during and after the war,” says Abdul Karim Konate, 32, who plays the role of Run.
Some 3 000 people lost their lives in the violence triggered by Gbagbo’s refusal to admit defeat in 2010 elections to his arch-rival Alassane Ouattara, who finally took office in May 2011.
“I was there in Yopougon (a Gbagbo stronghold), there where things really got hot,” said Konate. “We are telling the story. We need to tell it to those who have not seen it.”
Run is Lacote’s first full-length feature film. He calls it “indirectly political” and asserts his “right to approach the subject matter via fiction” while admitting that he finds himself on “slippery ground”.
Starting from scratch
“We have already had problems,” the director conceded. “We were filming in a former headquarters of the FPI (Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front party) occupied now by the Ivorian army. The FPI press accused us of making a film to gather evidence against Laurent Gbagbo,” who is jailed in The Hague awaiting trial by the International Criminal Court.
“My objective is not to say who is right or wrong. It is to recount the crisis seen through an individual prism,” Lacote said.
Officials in charge of the country’s film industry also hope Run will help get Ivorian cinema back on its feet.
The film business here is currently “flat on its face”, said Mamidou Coulibaly-Diakite, who manages public funds earmarked for Ivorian cinema. Prominent Ivorian directors such as Henri Duparc, Gnoan M’Bala, Yeo Kozoloa and Fadika Kramo-Lancine have either died or have not worked in more than a decade.
“We have to start everything again from scratch,” he said.
In the long run, Coulibaly-Diakite said he dreams that Côte d’Ivoire, formerly the economic and financial hub of west Africa, can rival Nigeria’s thriving cinema scene.
Run is due to be released in 2014 and distributed in France and Germany, and to be screened at several festivals, according to the film’s French producer Claire Gadea.