There's a lot of debate about the movie adaptation for Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" because of Tyler Perry's attachment to the project. Folks are either supportive or straight up mad.
That's the Catch-22 of turning literary works into movies. It's great that books, and in this case, choreopoems, are getting attention. It's great that there's a possibility that even more audiences will be introduced to the work. But then there's the flip side where things get lost in translation when, well, trying to translate one artistic form into another. And there's the risk that the powers to be involved with the movie will mess everything up, especially if the original writer isn’t part of the process.
But I'm not nervous or skeptical about the recent news of two books by black women that will become films. I'm quite giddy.
First up. Author turned literary activist Carleen Brice, the women behind White Readers Meet Black Authors, will see her debut award-winning novel "Orange Mint and Honey" on Lifetime very soon (2010) as the television movie "Sins of the Mother." The one and only Jill Scott stars in the production, which is about an estranged relationship between a recovering alcoholic mother (who Scott plays) and her daughter.
"I'm thrilled Lifetime is making the movie," Brice said in a release. "I've heard that only about 5% of books that get optioned actually become movies. I imagine that percentage is even lower when you look at books by black authors, so I'm really excited." Shooting begins at the end of September.
"Then you add that Jill Scott is going to be in it, and, let's just say, I'm having trouble sleeping," Brice added. "I've been a fan of her music since her first CD, and she's a talented, warm actress who will bring the depth of feeling needed to play Nona."
Even though her book doesn't come out until June 2010, Helena Andrews' "Bitch is the New Black," is already making news. Shonda Rhimes, the powerhouse behind "Grey's Anatomy," along with Betsy Beers, bought rights to bring the book to the big screen through her production company Shondaland.
This is how Andrews describes "Bitch is the New Black":
Despite the fact that the most visible woman in the United States is black, popular culture still hasn't moved past the only adjective apparently meant to describe us-strong. "Bitch" will hopefully function as a sort of dictionary (abridged, of course), providing a new vocabulary for black women. Almost automatically I'd describe myself as strong, but I'm also flawed, tired, sexy, depressed, frightened, naïve, hilarious, greedy and, of course, bitchy. In sixteen essays, "Bitch" gives credence to each one of my faces-the secret sides every woman often keeps hidden, but "The Secret Life of Bitches" it ain't. A memoir told in jigsaw pieces, "Bitch," is also something of a manifesto. I'm pretty much pants-ing myself here, daring folks to look at the hole-ly Hanes of my life as a metaphor for the rest of the women who look like me or think like me. In "The Bluest Eye," one of Toni Morrison's main characters, Claudia, says, "…we had become headstrong, devious, and arrogant. Nobody paid us any attention, so we paid very good attention to ourselves. Our limitations were not known to us-then." A generation of little brown girls later and we've lost interest in ourselves, as interest in us grows. "Bitch" is a look inward, backward and hopefully forward.
That kinda sounds like me. And tons of other women I know. I'm intrigued.
Andrews, who is a journalist and contributor to The Root's Their Eyes Were Watching blog, is understandably, one happy author. She will be involved in the project as the screenwriter.
"What's exciting about the movie," Andrews told me, "is that a female black character will finally be allowed to move beyond Hollywood's BBF, the all knowing "black best friend" caricature, and have something real to say about love and life."
To that end," she added, "Shonda Rhimes is the ultimate sensei."
I can't be the only one thrilled about seeing more projects being produced for film and television that are written by black women and star black women.
Oh and I still plan to see "Precious," the film based on Sapphire's "Push," even with the string-pulling of Oprah and Tyler Perry. Check the trailer below.
Speaking of which, are there any books you'd like to see turned into a film? Actually, I would love to see any of Edwidge Danticat’s novels or perhaps one of her short stories as a movie. Congrats to Danticat for being awarded one of the coveted MacArthur “genius grants.”
is a writer, speaker, author of books for adults and youth, and the book columnist for The Root. Her most recent book is \"The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs.\" Visit her at feliciapride.com.