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Canadian Director Clement Virgo Bringing Award-Winning Novel "The Book Of Negroes" To The Screen

by Cynthia Reid
September 26, 2011 8:07 AM
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The last we heard of Canadian director Clement Virgo was back in April when we alerted you that he was working on, along with pop singer Sting's wife Trudie Styler, a remake of 1972 Jamaican crime drama classic, The Harder They Come. Now comes word he's also developing a film adaptation for author Lawrence Hill’s bestseller, The Book of Negroes.

The award-winning novel, which was published in the United States under the moniker of Someone Knows My Name, tells the story of Aminata Diallo, an 11-year-old child taken from her village in West Africa.

A book description states..."The novel opens in 1802, as Aminata is wooed in London to the cause of British abolitionists, and begins reflecting on her life. Kidnapped at the age of 11 by British slavers, Aminata survives the Middle Passage and is reunited in South Carolina with Chekura, a boy from a village near hers. Her story gets entwined with his, and with those of her owners: nasty indigo producer Robinson Appleby and, later, Jewish duty inspector Solomon Lindo. During her long life of struggle, she does what she can to free herself and others from slavery, including learning to read and teaching others to, and befriending anyone who can help her, black or white.

Years later, she finds freedom, serving the British in the American Revolutionary War and having her name entered in the historic "Book of Negroes." This book, an actual historical document, is an archive of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to resettle in Nova Scotia, only to discover that this new place becomes one that is also oppressive and unyielding. Aminata eventually returns to Sierra Leone, passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America, but eventually finds herself crossing the ocean one more time to England to present the account of her life so that it may abolish the slave trade."

Known for indie flicks Poor Boy's Game starring Danny Glover and the sexually explicit Lie With Me starring Eric Balfour, Virgo felt a strong connection to Aminata. "The main character, Aminata, is someone who I really connected to as a reader and a filmmaker. I thought that this would be a great character to build a film around, so we contacted Lawrence Hill. I told him I was really interested in his book and that I would love to work on the script with him. To my surprise, he agreed. We begin shooting next year," he said.

Virgo also directed episodes of The L Word, Soul Food and The Wire and aims to stay true to his artistic integrity saying... "I want to feel like I’ve contributed something that people will feel is authentic and entertaining. But also thought provoking enough to inspire and enrich your soul."

No word yet on casting. Below are clips featuring a book illustration and an interview with author Lawrence Hill explaining the book.

[Source: SwayMag]

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  • Zainab Jah | September 27, 2011 11:37 AMReply

    Wow! I cannot WAIT to see this. Being Sierra Leonean coupled with my family's rich history of Nova Scotian descent, among many others from slave holds like The Carolinas, the Gullahs and Jamaicans, this is a story I would love to see brought to life on the big screen.

  • CareyCarey | September 27, 2011 4:37 AMReply

    Now this is a story I've been waiting for. Well, of course there's many "slave" stories but from listening to the author's short interview, I'm feeling something rich, engrossing, highly informative, deep, painful and honest.

    We've seen slave stories set in the south, but not this "voice" coming from northern America. We've heard of the Buffalo Soldiers, and we've seen "Glory", and my grandfather (I've said this before) was in the 108th colored Infantry, but this is quite different.

    Now, the director Virgo... ummm. Poor Boys Game... huuumm. I believe I've seen that movie (boxing?), but until I'm sure I'm gonna hold my comments on Mr Virgo. However, as I was reading the book's description and watching the videos I instantly thought of Mr Steve McQueen. He would kill this story. But I don't think folks (white & black) are ready for what he would bring to a story of this nature.

  • Trish | January 19, 2012 2:47 PM

    I meant the African people....not just the African

  • Trish | January 19, 2012 2:45 PM

    I finished reading this book weeks ago and I still feel tears just under the surface and deep anguish every time I think about it. I would love for there to be a movie but, really, only if it is filmed true to how the horror of the experience truly was. I am not interested in a glossed over, politically correct version that eases people's discomfort; Hollywood already has that game in the bag. To depict anything less than the truth would be to, once again, dishonour the travesty inflicted upon the African ripped from their homeland and loved ones only to be re-traumatized on a daily basis. I am tired of the palatable retelling of stories because I believe humankind will only become more humane when we are forced to acknowledge how completely inhumane we are capable of being. Maybe then people will stop rolling their eyes and proclaiming their desire for African Americans, American Indians, First Nations, etc "to just get over it! And stop letting the past be an excuse for today".

  • James Madison | September 26, 2011 11:16 AMReply

    Good post Cynthia.

    I am curious to see what happens with this.

  • urbanauteur | September 26, 2011 11:03 AMReply

    @ Emmanuel, possibly to {Sanitized & make it Palpable] to assauge any white liberal guilt or black bourgie angst.

  • Emmanuel | September 26, 2011 9:09 AMReply

    That is a very interesting story. I hope this project comes to fruition.

    Any idea why they chose to change the name of the book for U.S. publication?

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