Thursday, April 15, 2010
CHANDA'S SECRETS: OFFICIAL CANNES FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION
I interrupt the blog posts on my trip to Vietnam/Cambodia to bring you some truly exciting news. I am, like, dancing on air. The film version of CHANDA'S SECRETS that I blogged about all December from the set a few hours north of Johannesburg is an OFFICIAL SELECTION OF THE 2010 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL!!!!!!!!! (Sorry for screaming, but hey.:)) Oh -- the lead photo is of me with the kids who play Chanda's brother and sister, Soly and Iris.
The film is running in the Un Certain Regard section at the Salle Debusy under title LIFE ABOVE ALL. We are in competition with Jean Luc-Godard -- how exciting is that? Claire Denis is the Un Certain Regard jury president.
Here is the Cannes link -- http://www.festival-cannes.com/en.html Click upper left box (Festival de Cannes), then click Press Kit and scroll down to Un Certain Regard. Look for "Life Above All", director Oliver Schmitz. BTW, it kinda goes to show how the YA genre label is kind of a marketing ploy, eh? The film is the story exactly as it is in the book and is being marketed for adults. :)
(Don't have the screening times yet. I'm currently scheduled to be in Chicago as the keynote speaker at a 1,500 seat celebration of Mayor Daley's Book Club where CHANDA'S WARS was a featured 2010 book. Hope I can do both.)
Anyway, for those who missed it, I'm reprinting my blog from December 29, 2009 about how the film came to be made. (It's as hard as salmon spawning -- and now this -- I honestly can't believe it.) If interested you can scroll backwards to see photos from throughout the shoot. the posts go back to December 6.)
This is Oliver Stoltz, producer of the film version of Chanda's Secrets. Unfortunately, he had a serious stomach ailment during the first phase of the shoot when I was in South Africa, so this photo is taken from his website. (Oliver, you're way more attractive in person! Get a new photo!:))
I first met Oliver in 2005, when he was in Toronto promoting his Emmy-nominated documentary Lost Children, about child soldiers, at the documentary film festival Hot Docs. (It also won the German Oscar for Best documentary, and a host of other international awards.) I contacted Oliver as a research lead for my then-upcoming novel Chanda’s Wars. Oliver had first-hand experience with former child soldiers, having filmed in Uganda’s Gulu and Padr provinces, barely escaping attacks from the Lord’s Resistance Army. (He's WAY braver than me. Also a little crazy. 'Ask my mother,' he says.)
Despite his hectic schedule, Oliver took time to meet me twice and had me as his guest at the screening. I gave him a copy of Chanda’s Secrets and we said so long. A little later, I was in Germany doing a reading tour for my German publisher, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, and Oliver and I reconnected in Berlin. He still had that rumpled just-rolled-out-of-bed look -- which I had first thought was because of all the press he was doing for Lost Children, but turns out to be just the way he looks.
(BTW: Here's the German cover of Chanda's Secrets. They titled it "Things We Don't Mention" in German. Apparently it's an expression used in Germany to refer to WWII; the publisher thought it would resonate with the German audience, and communicate the hush-hush nature of Chanda's struggle.)
Oliver told me how much he loved Chanda, and that he hoped to film the book in an international co-production with his German film company Dreamer Joint Venture Productions. On my next reading tour for dtv, this time for the German edition of Chanda's Wars (Chandas Krieg), Oliver introduced me to director Oliver Schmitz. Those of you follow this blog will know him already, but to newcomers, here's a shot of Oliver at work with Chanda and Mama:
And here, BTW, is the cover of the German edition of Chanda's Wars I was promoting:
Schmitz is an expatriate South African whose work has shown at Cannes and been well-received throughout Europe and Africa. (He was part of the directing collective with the Coen Brothers on Paris je t’aime.)
The commitment of both Olivers to my work, and their personal familiarity with the world and life of the novel, gave me utter confidence. I was also pleased that they took my suggestion of screenwriter -- the wonderful Dennis Foon. I gave them the contact info for the publisher, Annick Press, a deal was negotiated with Annick's film representative, and Oliver (Stoltz) went and got financing and a distributor. (He's co-producing with South Africa's Enigma Pictures; Bavarian International is the distributor.)
I have been treated so well. The Olivers and Dennis listened carefully to my notes on the adaptation -- something rare and to be treasured in the world of filmmaking. Maybe I'll chat about a few of the differences between book and film at a later date -- but all of the slight changes make sense in terms of film and completely adhere to the vision and story of the novel.