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 This book, an actual historical document, is an archive of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to resettle in Nova Scotia, only to discover that this new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.