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Marrakech Film Festival '11: Forest Whitaker Will Direct & Star In Ugandan Child Soldier Tale 'Better Angels'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
December 8, 2011 2:24 PM
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Forest Whitaker receives his award from jury member Jessica Chastain at the Marrakech Film Festival
Forest Whitaker receives his award from jury member Jessica Chastain at the Marrakech Film Festival
Forest Whitaker isn't just an actor with thirty years experience in front of the camera, or an Oscar-winning movie star, but in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he also managed to carve out a second career as a director, debuting with the immensely successful "Waiting To Exhale" before going on to helm the Sandra Bullock vehicle "Hope Floats" and Katie Holmes-led "First Daughter."

It's been some time since Whitaker stepped behind the camera, but The Playlist caught up with the actor yesterday at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he's being honored for the wide-ranging achievement of his career, and the actor/director told us he's finally set to warm up his director's chair again, with not one, but three different projects on his dance card, including one he previously hadn't revealed.

Whitaker told us that he's planning on spending much of next year directing a project that explores an issue close to his heart. "I'm gonna direct a movie next year called 'Better Angels,' which deals with child soldiers in the north of Uganda, and a conflict journalist who enters into this camp. We should be going into pre-production on that in April." What's more, he'll be taking the lead role as well, telling us, "This'll be the first time I act and direct, the things I've directed, I've never even done a cameo."

But Whitaker says he'll make things a little easier for himself with the film's conceit, and by his familiarity to the subject matter (he's done charity work in the area regularly). "This story is very personal to me," the actor/director says. "I play a conflict journalist in the film, who's constantly recording and filming things, and it seems like a good mesh for me to take that walk, so it's ok for me to be aware of the camera. I'll be filming inside the film, I'll have a camera in my hand, filming what's in front of me. I have a strong awareness of the Lord's Resistance Army, and the history. I work with an organization there called Hope North, with the children's soldiers there, so it seemed I should marry my understandings with this."

Possibly following that film will be a sequel to Whitaker's debut "Waiting to Exhale," based on author Terry McMillan's follow-up "Getting To Happy." Angela Bassett said earlier in the year that Whitaker was working on the film, and he confirmed to us that it's on his slate, although not immediately. "I've been developing the script, and they're writing the next draft now. They want me to direct the movie, and I'd like to direct the movie, but I believe I'll be directing 'Better Angels' first," he explained.

But that's not all: check back soon for more from our talk with Whitaker, including some new details on a third directorial project, perhaps the most anticipated of the lot.

-- Interview by Jessica Kiang

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