Maverick writer-director making indie film predecessor to Nalo Hopkinson’s groundbreaking Africentric SFF novel
Brown Girl in the Ring is Nalo Hopkinson’s 1998 breakthrough novel that revitalised Africentric science fiction and fantasy. It’s the story of Ti-Jeanne, a medic and traditional healer in a near-future failed state Toronto. Ti-Jeanne can see through time, and she needs that power to survive the criminal despotism of Rudy, who runs the ruined city from his castle in the sky, the top of the CN Tower.
Ti-Jeanne comes to understand the source of her vision, as embodied in what some Caribbean people call Carnival Spirits, but are actually the gods of the Ilé Ifé religion of the Yoruba kingdom sprawling Nigeria, Togo, and Benin. Those deities dwell across the Western Hemisphere in the religions of Santeria in Cuba, Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, and Voudou in Haiti. That family of faiths encompasses 50 million adherents, making it larger than the combined Sikh, Jewish, and Bahá’í populations of the world.
Brown Girl in the Ring won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and it won Hopkinson the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
Now Brown Girl in the Ring is coming to the screen in the form of Brown Girl in the Ring: The Prequel. That’s the indie film currently in pre-production as helmed by writer, director, and actor Sharon Lewis. Lewis may be best known to Canadians as host of CBC Newsworld’s Counter Spin, and as the mysterious DJ in Clement Virgo’s film Rude. She’s directed numerous episodes of television and the feature films Ritch, Chains, and Income Property.
But for Brown Girl in the Ring: The Prequel to get produced, it still needs money, and that’s why Lewis has turned to crowd-funding. This podcast goes live on Friday, July 17 2015. You have until tomorrow to donate through Indie Gogo. To get this movie made, visit http://browngirlinthering.ca.
In this episode, Sharon Lewis talks about her plans for the prequel she’s written and that she’ll direct, and also:
- Hollywood’s continual neglect of coloured actors who, of course, represent the vast majority of the human race
- Why she cares about science fiction and how she came to love it
- The appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction, especially for coloured people
- Sharon Lewis’s ambitious plans for expanding the Brown Girl in the Ring universe in present and future venues and media including television and video games
- The aesthetic strategy for making movies on a micro budget
- The amazing prizes you can get for supporting the crowd-funding campaign for the feature film
Sharon Lewis spoke with me by Skype from her home in Toronto on July 14, 2015. You’ll hear some noise throughout our conversation which is either someone cleaning or cats using a litter box.
Along the way we discuss the Tumblr account Every Single Word which is a web series featuring Hollywood movies edited down to only the lines spoken by coloured actors. The result is 2-hour films shortened to two minutes, or twenty seconds, or sometimes zero seconds.