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Zadie Smith Will Make Her Feature Screenwriting Debut, Teaming up w/ Claire Denis for Sci-Fi Project

Zadie Smith Will Make Her Feature Screenwriting Debut, Teaming up w/ Claire Denis for Sci-Fi Project

Zadie Smith has been recruited by French auteur Claire Denis to pen the script for the director’s new film, which is described as “a space adventure set beyond our solar system in a future that seems like the present,” according to Screen International.

Making her screenwriting debut, Smith, author of the award-winning bestselling novel “White Teeth,” will write the script with her husband, Nick Laird, and Claire Denis, for the currently untitled film, which will be Denis’ first in English.

It’s worth noting that Zadie Smith’s book, “On Beauty” is being developed into a feature film by Kasi Lemmons; the announcement of that project was made in 2012, but no word on whether it’s still alive. 

It won’t be the first time that Denis has selected a woman writer of color to co-write a screenplay with, for her to direct. Her 2009 feature, “White Material” was co-written by Marie N’Diaye, the award-winning Senegalese novelist and playwright; it’s a film that doesn’t quite rank up there with previous Denis works like “Chocolat,” “Beau Travail” (“Good Work”), and “S’en fout la mort” (“No Fear, No Die”) – with the last 2 featuring the acting talents of Isaach de Bankole in starring roles; he also happens to play a minor, yet significant role in “White Material.” Both Bankole and Alex Descas (black Frenchmen of African descent) have worked quite a bit with Denis, appearing in past films she directed. 

She’s a white French artist who spent her entire childhood in Cameroon, in West Africa, and her work, at times, reflects her background. Her resume is chock-full of films that feature stories about black Africans in Africa, and in Europe, and she’s demonstrated a sensitivity with her subjects that other white filmmakers rarely display when making films which feature people of the African diaspora.

So this new untitled project that she’s working on with Zadie Smith is definitely on my watch list; given that it’s a “space adventure,” I’m even more intrigued, as it sounds like nothing either of them has ever done before.

Producer Oliver Dungey told Screen: “I am delighted that Claire has been tempted to cross the channel and make a film in English; she is one of the greats of contemporary cinema and she’s assembled a quite extraordinary team to make exactly the kind of ambitious film that audiences cherish – completely original, genuinely pushing the boundaries of art and science and, above all, extremely entertaining.”

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