Jennifer Baichwal is to direct a feature documentary based on novelist Margaret Atwood’sPayback: Debt And The Shadow Side Of Wealth, a non-fiction treatise on the notion of debt.

The book was optioned by the National Film Board of Canada. NFB producer Ravida Din commissioned Baichwal, whose latest film, Act Of God, opens the upcoming Hot Docs documentary film festival. Baichwal worked with the NFB on her award-winning 2006 title Manufactured Landscapes.

Widely hailed as a prescient text - written as it was before the current economic melt-down - Atwood’s book is an investigation into the concept of debt as an ancient and central motif in religion, literature and the structure of human societies.

“This is a brilliant book on a timely subject by one of the most accomplished writers in the world,” said Din, who will produce, in a statement. “It made complete sense to me that the NFB should produce this documentary… A collaboration with Margaret Atwood felt as obvious as a collaboration with Jennifer.”

Atwood expressed her own enthusiasm: “The documentary will have many wonderful visual elements that will enlarge the understanding of the story. I’m thrilled to be working with Jennifer and Ravida on this project.” Added Baichwal, “The writing in Payback is so rich and acute that the ideas literally jumped off the page when I read it. It was brimming with cinematic possibilities.”