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An adaptation of Richard Wright’s acclaimed novel Native Son now has artist/photographer Rashid Johnson set to direct. This will be Johnson’s first foray into the world of filmmaking. Eminent playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will be the one to adapt the novel, making this her third attempt at screenwriting. Her last was the Halle Barry vehicle Their Eyes Were Watching God, another literary adaptation. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report.
Native Son was originally adapted in 1986, and upon consulting a few old reviews, it appears as though it wasn’t well received. The story takes place in 1940’s Chicago, and follows Bigger Thomas, an impoverished 20-year old black-man. Thomas literally and figuratively chauffeurs his employer’s young white daughter, and her progressive boyfriend, through life in a black neighborhood and nightclub. Their ill-advised sojourn results in trouble for Bigger Thomas, and weaves a story that examines black and white relations. Perhaps the film will resonate more so with today’s audiences considering the current climate in the United States.
Parks is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Johnson a world-renowned artist, both of whom focus heavily on black issues. One might expect that, given these facts, the success of Native Son is guaranteed, but seeing as each artist is considerably inexperienced in filmmaking we’re somewhat skeptical.