Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best-selling debut novel The Water Dancer will receive a film adaptation from Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt for MGM Studios.
Released in 2019, The Water Dancer received generous acclaim as a nominee for the NAACP Image Award, while also being referred to as one of the best books of the year for 2019 by Time, NPR, Chicago Tribune, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, and other publications. The historical fantasy novel was also Winfrey’s first selection in her newly revived book club.
Taking place in the pre-Civil War South, the novel follows a young Hiram Walker, who was born into bondage. After his mother was sold away, Hiram lost all memory of her, and in its place a mysterious power was given to him. Years later, that power saves his life in a near-death experience, causing him to escape the only place he’s ever called home.
The synopsis, provided by Amazon, continues: “So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.”
Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Pitt’s Plan B will produce. Plan B is known for phenomenal films where Black stories are at the forefront, such as 12 Years a Slave, Moonlight, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Kamilah Forbes will also produce. Forbes developed and directed the theatrical event of Coates’ Between the World and Me at the Apollo Theater and Kennedy Center. The HBO special for Between the World and Me, also directed by Forbes, is set to premiere on November 15th.
Coates expressed his excitement about the forthcoming project to The Hollywood Reporter, who first broke the news. “I’m honored to be working with Harpo, Plan B and my old friend Kamilah Forbes. We all believe that MGM is the best home for this adaptation and look forward to bringing it to life.”