Monday, July 18, 2016

Janice Warman's "The World Beneath"

Janice Warman is a South African–born journalist whose career spans the Observer, the Guardian, the Spectator, the Daily Mail, and the BBC. She has published two nonfiction books for adults, including The Class of ’79, about three students who risked their lives to help abolish apartheid.

Here Warman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The World Beneath:
If The World Beneath was made into a film, I’d like Ava DuVernay to direct it. As the brilliant director of Selma, the story of Martin Luther King’s campaign to win equal voting rights with a march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, she would be ideal to look at the issues of apartheid and the 1976 Soweto uprising that are the setting for the book.

I’m also a huge fan of David Oyelowo in the Martin Luther King role and would like him to play Tsumalo, the freedom fighter on the run.

I met Ava and David at a screening of Selma at London’s Mayfair Hotel last year, and afterwards gave them each a copy of the book to read. They were both charming. So here’s hoping. We sat in the front row, and during the Q&A I asked whether Ava had thought of making a film about apartheid South Africa. She said she’d consider it; David smiled at me and said, “Why, do you have a script?” I said no, but it had been a leading question, and he laughed and said, “If this was LA, there would be scripts raining down from the back of the room!”

I would like Joshua, the boy hero, to be played by someone like Presley Chweneyagae, the star of Tsotsi, the Athol Fugard novel about a young thug who rescues a baby that was filmed by the South African director Gavin Hood and won the Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2006. Of course Presley will be too old for the role now, but I would take advice on who to cast.

As his mother, Beauty, the maid, I’ve made an unusual choice – Pumeza Matshikiza, the internationally famous Xhosa opera singer who grew up in the townships of Cape Town. She looks just as I imagine Beauty to look, and her astonishing singing ability could run through the film, as song is such a natural part of life in South Africa. I think the soundtrack would have an important role in the film, and I could imagine her singing Tula Baba, the traditional lullaby, to Joshua, and hear the freedom fighters singing the African National Congress song (and now the South African anthem) Nkosi Sikilele I Afrika.

I could see Mr Malherbe, the angry, drunken, abusive husband, being played by Charles Dance, the classically British actor who has played a succession of difficult men, most recently as Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Mrs Malherbe, his abused but ultimately courageous wife, could be played by Meryl Streep, an actress whose mastery of all her roles I admire. I am interested to see that she will soon be accompanying Michelle Obama and her daughters to Africa, to look at the challenges faced by women.

As Robert, her journalist son, I would like to see Sharlto Copley, a South African actor who came to fame with the sci-fi action films District 9 in 2009 and Elysium, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, in 2013, both written and directed by the South African director Neill Blomkamp, and whose Hardcore Henry is out later this year.

I met Sharlto first when he was the blonde-haired toddler son of a fellow journalism student, Linda Copley, at Rhodes University in South Africa, and again recently with Linda, when in the role of King Stefan, he was filming the story of Snow White’s evil stepmother, Malificent, with Angelina Jolie in the UK. He has a dangerous edge that would suit the role perfectly (but of course he’s utterly charming in person!)
Follow Janice Warman on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue