As one of the events during the Hapa-palooza Festival, spending the evening in the company of the great literary mind that is Lawrence Hill – author of The Book of Negroes and the recently released The Illegal, was fantastic! Margaret Gallagher – an award-winning CBC radio host – provided guidance throughout the evening as she sat across from Lawrence during the intimate the evening.
The Q + A portion of the evening begun with a viewing of a few scenes from the CBC mini-series – The Book of Negroes. Having read the book and watched the series, it was so insightful to hear just how much input Lawrence had in the whole process, and of course, he answered for some of the cuts and changes they made to ensure a good reception from the visual audience.
Director and Direction
Clement Virgo and series producer Damon D’Oliveira purchased the rights to the novel and began work on a feature film script. CBC and BET came on board in 2010 to develop the feature script into a six-part miniseries. Lawrence detailed how they spent three – eight hour days – writing the scripting.
Having passed up two offers, Lawrence joined forces with Clement Virgo, a Canadian filmmaker, who offered him the opportunity to partner in the creative process and production of the mini-series. Lawrence was very candid on this front about how the film industry works especially when it comes to the adaptations of novels. He had passed up the first two offers he had received because he would have had to forfeit any creative rights upon signing the contract. This is something he didn’t want as he had a vision of what the series could and should be.
Lawrence and the team wanted the series to be as authentic as possible so the series was shot in many locations that were felt closely resembled the original landscape that the slaves would have travelled and lived in. Some of the locations used include, Cape Town, South Africa and various locations in Nova Scotia including Lunenburg and the Fortress of Louisburg.
Even I remember reading some of the comments made about how some of the actors were too light-skinned (not black enough) to play the characters they were playing. But what people forget is that, the mini-series is an adaptation of the novel. An adaptation!!!
Moving on from the one book to the next, Lawrence read to us an excerpt from his new book; The Illegal depicts the story of immigrants, in search of a better life. This novel couldn’t have come out at a better time given the current affairs in the media surrounding Syrian refugees fleeing their native home in search of a better life. And while I speak of Syrian refugees, all refugees are important and should be given refuge.
Overall, the evening was just absolutely riveting. Being able to hear from “the horses mouth” the thought process behind the successful mini-series of the same name – The Book of Negroes – and just how much care they took to preserve the stories they were telling was incredibly touching. In addition, hearing him talk about the writing process of his latest novel was amazing. You could tell he was touched by all the stories surrounding immigrants and refugees. A five-year project, that culminated into an incredibly powerful novel that is not only thought-provoking but emotional.
The intimate conversation with Lawrence was mentally stimulating, filled with rich revelations and dosed with nuggets of wisdom (to be shared in an upcoming post). Stellar.
The evening was co-presented by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement and Hapa-palooza Festival.
Disclaimer: The pictures of the novel covers are sources from CBC.ca and The Globe and Mail.
... N. xo