After winning several literary awards and garnering global acclaim for its clever originality, South African author Lauren Beukes' science-fiction novel, Zoo City, recently saw its film rights awarded to producer Helena Spring (Red Dust, Yesterday, The First Grader), a fellow South African. Before fans of the Johannesburg-set novel fret at the idea of a film version missing the mark when it comes to capturing the essence of the original story, they should know that Beukes does not intend to let that happen.
Zoo City's story revolves around a character named Zinzi December, a black South African woman.
Here's the book's official synopsis:
Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.
Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.
Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.
Wikipedia, on the other hand, provides more details about Zoo City's story . . . ONLY IF you don't mind potential spoilers!
Speaking to Mail & Guardian this week, Beukes discussed her plan for keeping the film true to its novel roots, and why she decided to award Spring the film rights:
Were you looking for any specific qualities in the producer or production house that would take it on?
Someone who got it, who didn't want to switch it to New Orleans, re-cast Zinzi as white (because filmgoers apparently can't handle seeing black people in lead roles on screen, unless its Will Smith), someone who would let me take first shot at the script, working with an experienced script editor.
Tell me a bit about the process that led to Helena Spring being awarded rights to the piece?
We had a lot of interest from overseas producers, but I had the best feeling from Helena and another fantastic local producer who were both committed to doing it in South Africa and doing it right. It came down to a joint decision between me, my agent, my publisher Angry Robot, who hold the film rights, and their agent as to who was best positioned to make this happen in the best possible way.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how this film turns out. South Africa has an incredible pool of talented actors, so the casting of this film will really be interesting to watch unfold. For the lead role of Zinzi December, I'm thinking Moshidi Motshegwa, Terry Pheto, or Mmabatho Montsho.
Any casting suggestions from our S&A readers?