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Kasi Lemmons Will Adapt and Direct The Shadow King Into a Feature Film

Kasi Lemmons will adapt and direct The Shadow King
Kasi Lemmons will adapt and direct The Shadow King, Maaza Mengiste’s historical fiction novel, into a feature film. Atlas Entertainment will produce it.

The Shadow King is set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia. It takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II. The book also casts a light on the women soldiers who were left out of the historical record.

With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid in Kidane and his wife Aster’s household. Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invaded. His initial kindness to Hirut shifts into flinty cruelty when she resists his advances, and Hirut finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage.

Meanwhile, Mussolini’s technologically advanced army prepares for an easy victory. Hundreds of thousands of Italians―Jewish photographer Ettore among them―march on Ethiopia seeking adventure. As the war begins in earnest, Hirut, Aster, and the other women long to do more. They are currently caring for the wounded and burying the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile. Ethiopia quickly loses hope and it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale.

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She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor. Then she soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms against the Italians. But how could she have predicted her own personal war as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers, who will force her to pose before Ettore’s camera?

Hirut is the fierce, original, and brilliant voice at its heart. The book follows a gorgeously crafted and unputdownable exploration of female power. In incandescent, lyrical prose, Maaza Mengiste breathes life into complicated characters on both sides of the battle line. She is shaping a heartrending, indelible exploration of what it means to be a woman at war.

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Published in September 2019 by W.W. Norton & Company, The Shadow King was named Time Magazine’s “Must-Read Books of 2019” and was a finalist for the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction.

“Maaza Mengiste’s mesmerizing novel takes my breath away,” said Lemmons. “The imagery is so rich and powerful and the characters are so vividly drawn, it naturally lends itself to adaptation. I’m very honored to be a part of bringing this brilliant book to the screen. And I’m thrilled to be working with everyone at Atlas.”

Charles Roven, Richard Suckle will produce The Shadow King. Stephanie Haymes-Roven and Curt Kanemoto will executive produce it and oversee the project for Atlas Entertainment.

“Kasi’s films are epic and intimate all at once,” stated Atlas Entertainment’s Roven and Suckle. “It makes her the perfect filmmaker to bring to life Maaza’s complex characters. And compelling world captured in The Shadow King. We are thrilled to be working with her on such a special project.”

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Originally read on Deadline.

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