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UPDATE On: "Viva Riva!" Director & Producer Team Up To Produce 6 Films Based On Contemporary African Literature

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 5, 2011 10:13 AM
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12/5/11 UPDATE: As I said in my past post on this, I sent out an email to Steve Markovitz on Friday for any further information he can share on this news; like what some of the books and other filmmakers they're considering (or have already selected). Well... I received an email reply from Markovitz early this morning in which he said that rights to some novels have indeed already been secured, while they are negotiating others; BUT he can't reveal anything further than that until everything has been finalized. However, once that happens, he'll send me an email with all the details!

I'm certainly looking forward to that. He sounded very excited about what they have cooking, and I'm really curious what novels he says they've already secured rights to, and those they are currently negotiating. I could come up with my own short list (for example, representing east Africa, the author whose name immediately comes to mind is Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o; his last novel (Wizard Of The Crow) the dazzling, sprawling, satirical fable on sordid African despotism may be deemed *unfilmmable* at first glance, but I'd love to see what an ambitious filmmaker could do with the material. And if you haven't read it, I strongly recommend it!

Also, other than Wanuri Kahiu, I'm dying to know who the other 5 filmmakers Markovitz and company are courting to helm the other 5 films. Well... you'll know when I know. 

Friday's original post follows below:

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In the 10-minute video below, which made its way to YouTube yesterday, Kenyan director, Wanuri Kahiu (Pumzi) is interviewed by Russell Southwood of Balancing Act Africa, with the conversation centering primarily on her award-winning Focus Features Africa First short film Pumzi, and her upcoming projects.

We've already told you about the Kenya-based TV pilot she directed commissioned by Turner Broadcasting (HERE) as well as the adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor's critically-acclaimed fantasy novel Who Fears Death she's set to direct, which is currently in development (HERE). She talks about both, so if you missed my past posts on either, feel free to follow the links to them so that when you watch the video, you have some backstory.

In addition to those 2 projects, Wanuri mentions 1 other project she's attached to helm - one that I'm only just hearing about for the first time, and which sounds like something to definitely get excited about.

As she states in the video below, the feature film will be part of a larger initiative titled ImagiNations, created and spearheaded none other than Djo Tunda Wa Munga and Steve Markovitz. Djo Munga is the writer director of maybe the highest profile film this year from Africa (outside of Africa) Viva Riva!; and Steve Markovitz was one of Viva Riva!'s producers. Munga and Markovitz paired up to form Suka! Productions to produce a diverse slate of projects, and this new initiative (ImagiNations) is one of them.

So what's ImagiNations? A Google search revealed next to nothing, other than the press kit for Viva Riva!, which described ImagiNations as "a Pan-African project" in which "a series of six feature films based on contemporary African literature" will be produced.

As Wanuri notes in the video, she will be adapting and directing an East African novel, though she doesn't reveal what the novel is. She's Kenyan (an East African country), so maybe we can then make the assumption that the other 5 directors attached to adapt and direct the other 5 films will represent the respective parts of the African continent they call home. So, maybe there'll be a novel set in a country in North Africa, one set in West Africa, Central Africa, South Africa... and the last? Maybe an island off the coast of Africa like Madagascar. I dunno... We'll see. The selection could be something entirely different.

Regardless, I'm most certainly intrigued and excited at the possibilities here. I also just love the overall idea, done in the spirit of Pan-Africanism; unifying instead of divisive. Plus, there's a wealth of novels by African authors, set in Africa, virtually ignored and untapped by moviemakers; so this is a wonderful uplifting move, and I'm glad it's being done from the inside. 

I've sent out an email to Steve Markovitz for any further information he can share on this; so once I know more, you'll know more. Maybe I can get him to mention some of the books and other filmmakers they're considering (or have already selected). 

Well... you'll know when I know.

In the meantime, watch the interview with Wanuri and Russell Southwood of Balancing Act Africa below:

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