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Newton I. Aduaka's Cannes L'Atelier' Project Is An Adaptation Of Award-Winning Helon Habila's Novel

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 11, 2014 11:37 AM
1 Comment
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Oil On Water

As promised, more details on Nigerian filmmaker Newton I. Aduaka's Oil On Water, which made the cut of 15 projects selected by the 10th edition of the Cannes Film Festival's Cinefondation Atelier - 15 directors from 15 countries whose projects have been considered particularly promising. Together with their producers, they will be able to meet potential partners, a necessary step to finish their projects and start the making of their films.


Newton I. Aduaka
Newton I. Aduaka
L’Atelier provides its participants access to international co-productions, thus accelerating the film’s completion.

The Cinefondation’s Atelier was created in 2005 to stimulate creative filmmaking and encourage emergence new and diverse filmmaker voices. So far, out of 141 projects, 85 have been released in theaters and 44 are currently in pre-production. 

After doing some research, I learned that Aduaka's Oil On Water is actually an adaptation of award-winning Nigerian author Helon Habila's novel of the same name. Habila is a winner of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Caine Prize for writing.

Oil On Water, his third novel, published in 2011, is set in the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, and tells the story of the wife of a British oil executive who has been kidnapped. Two journalists - a young upstart, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran - are sent to find her. 

The novel, which I sadly haven't read, is further described as a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, as it explores the battle between idealism and disillusionment in a tale that's full of danger. 

As Rufus and Zaq [the two journalists] navigate polluted rivers flanked by exploded and dormant oil wells, in search of “the white woman,” they must contend with the brutality of both government soldiers and militants. Assailed by irresolvable versions of the “truth” about the woman’s disappearance, dependent on the kindness of strangers of unknowable loyalties, their journalistic objectivity will prove unsustainable, but other values might yet salvage their human dignity.

The novel was mostly reviewed positively, with t least 2 reviews (from The Independent and Publishers Weekly) described it s "cinematic" which may be why (in part) Aduaka was attracted to it as a potential film adaptation. 

Needless to say, I've ordered a copy of the novel and will certainly read it before the film is made, and, as usual, I'll share my thoughts afterward. If you'd like to buy a copy for yourself, click HERE.

Aduaka's last film, the demanding and experimental One Man Show, was a Critics Prize winner at last year's FESPACO.

From May 16-22, at Cannes, L’Atelier will arrange meetings with the directors for film industry professionals interested in investing in their projects. Let's hope Aduaka's adaptation of Helon Habila's novel attracts financing.

The full list of Atelier selections follows below:

Invisible, Pablo Giorgelli (Argentina)
Territoria, Nora Martirosyan (Armenia)
Tabija, Igor Drljača (Bosnia)
Saudade, Antonio Méndez Esparza (Brazil)
Ville-Marie, Guy Édoin (Canada)
In the Shade of the Trees, Matías Rojas Valencia (Chile)
Ce sentiment de l’été, Mikhaël Hers (France)
Aliyushka, Adilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan)
The Darkness, Daniel Castro Zimbrón (Mexico) 
White Sun, Deepak Rauniyar (Nepal)
To All Naked Men, Bassam Chekhes (Neth/Syria)
Oil on Water, Newton I. Aduaka (Nigeria)
Dogs, Bogdan Mirică (Romania)
A Yellow Bird, K. Rajagopal (Singapore)
Ruta salvatge, Marc Recha (Spain)

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1 Comment

  • Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima | August 22, 2014 10:43 AMReply

    I hope Nigerians in Nigeria can see this film whenever it comes out, because Newton Aduaka is popular in Nigeria as the Nigerian filmmaker whose acclaimed films from Rage to Ezra have never been screened at cinemas in the country. And we wonder if Aduaka prefers to make movies for only competitions at film festivals and his peers and not for the people.

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