Atwood book will become a documentary

Canada film board options debt study 'Payback'

TORONTO -- Canadian writer Margaret Atwood will have another of her books turned into a film, this time a documentary.

The National Film Board of Canada has optioned Atwood's nonfiction book "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth" and has hired veteran documentary maker Jennifer Baichwal ("Manufactured Landscapes") to do the screen adaptation.

On Tuesday, Baichwal promised no expose of Bernie Madoff, but instead said she will probe how the metaphor of indebtedness has shaped societies over time, including our own.

"We want to take what's happening right now and put it into a fascinating historical content," said Baichwal, whose most recent film, "Act of God," will open the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on Thursday in Toronto.

Atwood's book grew out of a lecture series sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that took place in the fall, just as the Wall Street upheaval caused by interlocking global debt began to unfold.

Baichwal expects the CAN$1 million ($800,000) NFB documentary to employ archival material and animation to help engage audiences. Production is set for late 2009, with the NFB's Ravida Din producing.

The project also marks Atwood's first collaboration with the NFB after a series of her novels, including "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Robber Bride" and "The Blind Assassin," became theatrical or TV movies.