South African Producer Snaps Up Film Rights For Clarke Award Winner Zoo City
Lauren Beukes’s novel in development for the big screen
South African film producer Helena Spring has won the film rights to this year’s Clarke Award-winning novel Zoo City, the cyberpunk thriller by fellow South African Lauren Beukes.
This comes after a furious international bidding war, including bids from UK and US producers.
Zoo City was first published in South Africa by Jacana Media and, thereafter internationally by Angry Robot. The urban fantasy is set in a futuristic, gritty and hard-core Johannesburg where the eponymous ghetto has been colonised by society’s outcasts – criminals, drug-dealers and psychopaths – and their animal companions. Zoo City slum inhabitant Zinzi is a shrewd, street-smart girl with the gift (or burden) of finding lost things, who wears her power animal, a sloth, on her back. When she is hired to find a missing teenybopper star, she hopes that it will be her ticket out of Hell’s waiting room.
“I’m delighted to have secured the film and television rights for Zoo City,” says Helena Spring, who is now casting for a sloth, presumably. “It is a ground-breaking, magical novel begging for a life on the big screen. Lauren’s storytelling is masterful – edgy and futuristic, unique yet universal. It is high in entertainment value yet emotionally charged, a dream project for any producer.”
Beukes adds, “Every novelist dreams of a movie deal, but you actually want more than that. You want to find a producer of great vision and integrity and experience who fundamentally gets the book and understands how to transform it into an entirely different creature based on the same genetic material. I’m thrilled that it’s being produced in South Africa – for an international audience.”
Spring’s career in the entertainment industry spans nearly three decades during which time she has produced over 20 motion pictures, including the first ever South African film to receive recognition at the Oscars – Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday earned a Best Foreign Picture nomination in 2004.
Spring will soon be putting the project out to a select party of directors, while Beukes has first refusal on adapting her own novel into a screenplay.