If 2013 was “the year of Black film,” 2014 and 2015 are shaping up to be more of the same. With a mixture of comedies, thrillers like No Good Deed and Addicted, and historical pictures like Ava DuVernay’s highly anticipated Selma on the horizon, the next few years could be very good to Black folks on screen.
Afro-Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo’s upcoming narrative The Book Of Negroes hopes to add even more nuance to the depiction of the Black experience in the Americas. Based on Lawrence Hill’s award-winning novel, The Book of Negroes (also titled, Someone Knows My Name) follows Aminata, a West African girl, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, but doesn’t give up the struggle for freedom until she makes it back to Africa.
Here’s a synopsis of the novel (via Shadow & Act):
Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone—passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America—is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.
Unlike 12 Years A Slave, and other narratives based on the antebellum South, The Book of Negroes features a Black woman protagonist who is not merely a tangential element of the story, but IS the story. Moreover, Aminata does not appear to be a downtrodden woman who succumbs to her fate, but rather an active—and fierce—advocate for her freedom.
The Book of Negroes is slated to premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France, and will air on TV as a six-hour miniseries. BET has acquired the domestic rights for the film, which will premiere during the 2014/2015 television season.
The Book of Negroes stars Aunjanue Ellis, Louis Gossett Jr., Cuba Gooding Jr., and Lyriq Bent.
Take a look at the first trailer for the film: