Schepisi will navigate 'River'

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SYDNEY -- Director Fred Schepisi has signed on to direct and co-produce a feature adaptation of best-selling Australian author Kate Grenville's novel "The Secret River," producers said Monday.

Set in the early 19th century, the book centers on former convict William Thornhill, who is granted 100 acres of land on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. There, he finds himself engaged in a physical struggle with an untamed land as well as part of a clash of cultures between the white settlers and local aboriginals.

Schepisi will direct from a screenplay by Jan Sardi and co-produce the feature with Melbourne-based production company Ruby Entertainment, headed by Stephen Luby and Mark Ruse. They are eyeing a 2010 release for the film.

Local independent film distributor Palace Films will handle Australian and New Zealand distribution rights.

"The Secret River" was shortlisted for Britain's top literary honor, the Booker Prize, in 2006.
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