Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mandy Hager's "Into the Wilderness"

Mandy Hager is an award-winning writer and educator based on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. She has a drive to tell stories that "matter" -- direct, powerful stories with something to say. She won the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Award for Young Adult Fiction for The Crossing, the first book in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy.

Here Hager dreamcasts an adaptation of Into the Wilderness, the second book in the trilogy:
For a taster of the plot, here’s the blurb: Maryam, Ruth and Joseph have fled Onewēre, reluctantly taking Joseph’s troublesome cousin Lazarus as well. They arrive at their destination, Marawa Island, filled with hope for rescue and reprieve. But at first glance the island appears to be solely populated by birds. Perhaps the Apostle’s dire warnings about the fallout of the Tribulation were true after all?

As Maryam and Joseph experience all the topsy-turvy misunderstandings and sexual tension first love entails, the antagonism between Maryam and Lazarus reaches explosive proportions. But when disaster brings the crushing realization that time is now against them, all four must decided just who they can risk turning to for help.

It’s a pleasure to imagine Into the Wilderness as a film — in fact, as I write I visualise each story as if it’s a film playing out inside my head. This is the second book in my Blood of the Lamb trilogy, a series that looks at the way power and control is wielded over women, faithful populations and people of colour. Set in an apocalyptic future, the book takes its characters from a small island in the Pacific to the shores of an island detention centre off the coast of a transformed Australia (The Confederated Territories), based on the detention centre on Nauru.

One of the features of the book is that the main protagonist Maryam and her friend Ruth are Pacific Islanders – people who are not often represented in fiction. Maryam is a strong and courageous character, who rails against the oppressive religious sect that controls the island where she was raised and who, in Into the Wilderness, must learn to overcome great grief to stand up against racist nationalistic captors who have no regard for the plight of refugees and ‘boat people.’

So, to stay faithful to the underlying themes of the book, it would be essential to cast Maryam and Ruth as true Pacific Islanders. Now, if the adaptation was cast in New Zealand (where I live) this would not pose any difficulties. If it was to be a full Hollywood production, however, this might prove more difficult. I like to think that the casting director looked outside the square and went in search of new talent to bring a real freshness and authenticity to the film. With the cultural references (including the Gilbertese language) borrowed from the people of Kiribati, it would seem a sensible place to start the search. Just as unknown Papuan New Guinea actress Xzannjah was discovered to play Matilda in the wonderful film adaptation of Mr Pip, I would like a similar search to be undertaken to find the one special person who could bring Maryam life.

Therefore my dream would be for Andrew Adamson to direct, for the movie to be filmed on location in the Pacific with authentic Pacific islanders, and for the supporting cast to be New Zealanders, to showcase the wonderful talent we have down here! And, of course, it would be crewed by New Zealanders as well, with my dear husband Brian as Gaffer (head of lighting) – as that’s what he does in real life!
Learn more about the book and author at Mandy Hager's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue