Steve McQueen and BBC Film are to executive produce Potboiler Productions and Rathaus Films’ feature adaptation of Augustown, the acclaimed 2016 novel by Jamaican writer Kei Miller.
It will mark the feature directorial debut of Shabier Kirchner, who was director of photography on McQueen’s anthology series Small Axe.
The novel will be adapted by author and playwright Courttia Newland, who co-wrote two of the Small Axe films – Lovers Rock and Red, White And Blue – with McQueen. Newland was recently named a Screen Star of Tomorrow.
Producers are Rachel Dargavel of the UK’s Potboiler Productions and Madeleine Askwith of US-based Rathaus Films.
Set in 1980s Jamaica, Augustown begins when a teacher cuts off the dreadlocks of Kaia, a violation of his family’s Rastafari beliefs and an action that will impact the entire community. It causes his blind great-aunt, Ma Taffy, to recall stories from her youth including the legend of a flying preacher man and his ties to the history of Jamaican oppression and resistance.
McQueen, who will executive produce under his production company Lammas Park, said: “There are so many stories from the Caribbean that need to be illuminated. They are like treasures buried deep below sand. It is wonderful that Shabier is bringing such stories to light.”
Further executive producers include Gail Egan and Andrea Calderwood of Potboiler, and Eva Yates of BBC Film.
Antigua-born Kirchner previously directed 2018 short Dadli and was cinematographer on Harry Wootliff’s Only You, produced by Potboiler’s Dargavel.
“I have always wanted to break down the way we’ve been taught to tell stories,” said Shabier. “The Caribbean is so full of untold narratives, I would love to share as many as I can with the world, so Augustown is the perfect place to start.”
Rights to Augustown were acquired in a deal brokered by Penelope Killick at David Higham Associates on behalf of Kei Miller.