Kasi Lemmons, director of “Eve’s Bayou” and “Talk to Me,” is attached to adapt and direct South African apartheid novel “Agaat,” written in 2010 by Marlene van Niekerk. The rights to the book have been optioned by producers Patrick Holzen, Mark R. Harris and Debbie Vandermeulen.
Holzen states, “It took a long deliberation to find the perfect person and I can’t imagine the project with anyone else now. [Lemmons’] previous projects have dealt with themes of social change, empowerment and love, which are our themes as well. Kasi is a formidable talent with a unique perspective that was essential to adapting this masterpiece.”
A synopsis of the story is below, via Booklist. Lemmons also recently adapted Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty” and is set to direct “Black Nativity,” Langston Hughes’ gospel musical, for Fox Searchlight.
Seventy-year-old Milla de Wet is slowly dying of paralysis, unable to move or talk, helpless and in the care of Agaat. They are two women—white and black—living on a farm in South Africa at a time when the nation is undergoing huge racial and social change. But they have their own personal history between them. Van Niekerk shifts back and forth from the present to the past, and from first person to third person, including long, rambling diary passages, all from Milla’s perspective, to tell a tangled story that takes place during the years 1947–96. The sweep is as grand as the racial politics in South Africa and as intimate as the longings of one lonely woman for connectedness. Smart and assertive since she came to the farm with a crippled right hand, Agaat has been far more than a servant, to the eternal irritation of Milla’s husband, Jak de Wet. Jak is handsome but limited, for which he compensates by beating Milla. Agaat’s seething anger and sadness are barely concealed beneath the veneer of the loyal and dutiful servant even as Milla loses the ability to communicate and Agaat reads the diary entries. This novel stuns with its powerful sense of the rigors of farm life, desolation of a failing marriage, and comfort of a long and complex relationship.