South African producer Helena Spring has acquired the film rights to Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, beating out other producers from the US and UK who were interested in the novel.

The “cyberpunk thriller” won the Arthur C Clarke Award for best science fiction novel this year. Jacana Media published in South Africa, and Angry Robot published internationally.

The story is set in a futuristic, gritty Johannesburg where outcasts and their animal companions are put in a ghetto. One girl, Zinzi, has a sloth as her companion; she is hired to find a missing teenage star.

Spring, whose credits include 2004 Oscar nominee Yesterday and this year’s The First Grader (as executive producer), “I’m delighted to have secured the film and television rights for Zoo City,” said Helena Spring. “It is a ground breaking, magical novel begging for a life on the big screen. Lauren’s storytelling is masterful - edgy and futuristic, unique yet universal. It is high in entertainment value yet emotionally charged, a dream project for any producer.”

Beukes, who has first look to adapt the novel, added: “Every novelist dreams of a movie deal - but you actually want more than that. You want to find a producer of great vision and integrity and experience who fundamentally gets the book and understands how to transform it into an entirely different creature based on the same genetic material. I’m thrilled that it’s being produced in South Africa - for an international audience.” She is represented by Julian Friedmann of Blake Friedmann.

Spring will soon go out to directors with the project.