Rapper K'naan, Frieda Pinto, Dan Stevens Headline Belgian-Congo-Set Love Story "The Catastrophist"

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 16, 2012 10:46 AM
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A project I've been tracking since my first post on it last September.

Here's a recap...

Somali/Canadian rapper K'naan will make his big screen acting debut in an adaptation of a Belgian Congo period romance novel titled The Catastrophist, written by Ronan Bennett.

British filmmaker Nick Broomfield will direct.

Naturally, the love story is between 2 white characters, while the central African country (under Belgian colonial rule at the time this story takes place, sometime in the late 50s, early 60s) plays gracious (or maybe indignant) host.

Here's Amazon's synopsis of the novel:

James Gillespie, a disillusioned Irish historian turned novelist, has arrived in the Congo on the eve of independence, hoping to reunite with his Italian lover, Ines. The two had once been passionately involved in Europe, but Ines's job as a journalist took her to the Congo, where her Communist leanings have kept her. Ines is an enthusiastic supporter of Patrice Lumumba, and her journalism reflects her bias. Gillespie, on the other hand, has a novelist's broader view, and his ability to see all facets of the issue simultaneously keeps him from choosing sides and drives a wedge between him and Ines. As she becomes more involved with Lumumba and his followers, he is befriended by an American CIA agent whom Ines suspects of being an enemy. When the political situation heats up, she puts herself increasingly in harm's way until, at last, Gillespie must put his own life on the line to save hers... The Catastrophist is a love story, a historical novel, a troubling reflection on Africa's ongoing political upheaval.

Call it Out Of Africa, the sequel...? Reductive, but you get my point... I hope.

The book, which I'll readily admit I'm not familiar with, was a bestseller after it was published in 2007.

It's been revealed this morning that Dan Stevens from hit UK TV series Downton Abbey, and Frieda Pinto will star. It's not clear, but I'm assuming Stevens will play James Gillespie and Pinto will play Ines, his Italian lover. She's Indian by the way.

Filming is due to start in Tanzania in February 2013.

I had an immediate negative reaction to this project when I first learned of it for what I think should be obvious reasons. But I'll save my commentary for after I've actually read the book, or seen the film, and won't give in to knee-jerk reactions. But, frankly, from my Afrocentric POV, history just isn't on the side of films made about stories like this.

What role K'naan will play isn't yet known. Although my guess is that he'll represent the locals - maybe a, shall we say, *tour guide* of some sort, for our white hero, or his damsel in distress.

Now excuse me while I go re-watch Raoul Peck's Lumumba in the meantime... and then after that, I'll fast-forward to this century and revisit Djo Tunda Wa Munga's big *fuck you* to the *establishment*, Viva Riva!

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1 Comment

  • Sabrina | May 16, 2012 11:17 AMReply

    Rolling my eyes and shaking my head. With all the good stories that could be written about Congo in the 50's and 60's, they came up with that lame story line... Yep, 'Viva Riva' and 'Lumumba' all day!

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