Controversial 'The Book of Negroes' Novel Getting Miniseries

Clement Virgo - P 2013
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BET and CBC will start shooting the Clement Virgo-directed project -- previously planned as a movie -- in South Africa in the fall.

BANFF, Alberta – The controversial Lawrence Hill novel The Book of Negroes will be adapted into a miniseries for BET in the U.S. and the CBC in Canada, after earlier plans for a big-screen adaptation.

Canadian producer Conquering Lion Pictures initially optioned the film rights to the award-winning novel in 2009, with Clement Virgo on board to direct a movie as an international co-production.

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But now Conquering Lion Pictures and Out of Africa Entertainment will turn the 2007 novel about a young girl taken from Africa and forced into slavery on a South Carolina plantation before she escapes to freedom in Nova Scotia into a miniseries.

Entertainment One will handle worldwide sales.

"We are excited to partner with Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Entertainment and Entertainment One on this historic project and to bring the acclaimed Book of Negroes to life for the BET audience,” said Loretha Jones, president of original programming at BET Networks.

Production will start in South Africa in the fall, with The Book of Negroes structured as a Canada-South African co-production.

Conquering Lion Pictures initially aimed to structure the intended movie adaptation likely as a Canadian-European co-production.

The miniseries is written by Virgo, with Hill getting a co-writer credit.

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The executive producer credits will be shared by Damon D'Oliveira, Virgo, Lance Samuels, Daniel Iron, Carrie Stein and Bill Niven.

Canadian writer Hill’s novel, while selected by Oprah magazine in 2010 as a top summer read, has stirred controversy.

The Dutch group Federation for Honour and Reparation of Slavery in Surinam two years ago torched the cover of the novel, rather than the entire book, to protest what they claimed is the offensive use of the word “negro” in the book title.

Hill’s novel was published in the Canadian and U.K. markets with the title The Book of Negroes.

But historical sensitivity led Hill’s novel to be published in the U.S. market as Somebody Know My Name.