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Clement Virgo Not Interested In Making "This-Is-Good-For-You Cinema" In Adapting "Book Of Negroes" + Revamped Western Also In Development

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act November 25, 2011 at 7:37PM

Already mentioned on S&A, Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo is working on a highly-anticipated film adaptation of author Lawrence Hill’s bestseller, The Book of Negroes.
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Clement Virgo

Already mentioned on S&A, Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo is working on a highly-anticipated film adaptation of author Lawrence Hill’s bestseller, The Book of Negroes.

The pressure is on Mr Virgo, and he seems to be very well aware of that, telling The Strand, "Naturally it's a little bit daunting to take on this book... I feel a certain amount of obligation to Lawrence Hill and to all his readers, because the book is so beloved around the country and around the world."

But it might be reassuring to some (especially those not already familiar with Virgo's previous work) to know that the filmmaker isn't at all interested in making "this-is-good-for-you cinema" as he put it (or castor oil films as Sergio calls them), nor is he going after what could be "your typical Masterpiece Theatre wig-and-wardrobe orgy" in the hands of the wrong director.

Virgo, whose own previous films are partly remembered for their "high-octane" style, with comparisons to early Spike Lee works (Do the Right Thing, notably), says he definitely understands the "energy" in the novel he is adapting, and knows what kind of film it deserves, stating, "It's a very fast-paced, modern book... it's not stodgy at all. From a visual standpoint, I want to capture the rhythm of the book, keeping it moving forward... It's definitely not a Merchant-Ivory kind of movie."

No it most certainly shouldn't be a Merchant-Ivory kind of movie, no disrespect to the producer/director duo! Sure, it's a period piece; but please no ostentatious sets featuring genteel, disillusioned characters :)

But I'm looking forward to seeing what Virgo eventually does with the original material, and I hope the project gets the backing (financial and otherwise) it deserves. Funding for films of this nature isn't exactly abundant. However, Mr Virgo isn't at all deterred, stating, "I think I'm very dogged... I push hard to make sure that I get my projects through, to sustain passion for a long time. I think: what can I do every day to move this forward? What discipline can I impose on myself? It's easy to give up, because there are so many obstacles, so many ‘no's'."

Indeed...

And lastly, in addition to his adaptation of The Book Of Negroes and his remake of The Harder They Come, the Strand interview/profile also notes that Mr Virgo has another project in development (pitching a script for it to local financiers); that other film is titled I Shot the Sheriff, and is described as "a revamped Western about female bandits who fall in love."

Hmmm... I'll need to know more.

But it's clear that Clement Virgo and his Conquering Lions production company will be quite busy over the next few years, especially if all works according to plan.

"In this business most of us will end up being free-lance contractors. You're essentially self-employed, and if you're self-employed then how do you keep up your focus in the face of uncertainty? Everyone thinks it's talent, but I don't believe it. Being hungry and being persistent is a more valuable tool," says Virgo.

And on that note...

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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