Fresh off the Academy Award nominated film “Harriet,” Kasi Lemmons has come on board to write and direct the adaptation of Maaza Mengiste’s critically acclaimed, bestselling, historical fiction novel The Shadow King for Atlas Entertainment, the company announced today. A gripping novel set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II, casting light on the Ethiopian women soldiers who were left out of the historical record.
The project will be produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle and Executive Produced by Stephanie Haymes-Roven and Curt Kanemoto who will 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.”
“Maaza Mengiste’s mesmerizing novel takes my breath away,” said Lemmons. “The imagery is so rich and powerful and the characters 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.”
Lemmon’s most recent film “Harriet” earned two Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, and ten NAACP Award nominations. In addition to her work on “Harriet,” Lemmons most recently executive produced the Netflix limited series “Self Made,” starring Octavia Spencer and directed two episodes of the series.
The Shadow King, which was published by W.W. Norton & Company in September 2019, received an abundance of praise and endorsements including being named one of Time Magazine’s “Must-Read Books of 2019” and was named a finalist for the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction. Newsweek says of the novel, “In haunting and beautiful prose, Mengiste shines a light on those whose lives are not often heralded.”
The Shadow King is a story set in 1935 as Mussolini’s army invades Ethiopia and moves towards an easy victory. Aster, the wife of a commander in Haile Selassie’s overwhelmed army, and her household servant Hirut long to do more than only care for the wounded and bury the dead. Together they offer a plan to maintain morale among Ethiopians, eventually becoming warriors and inspiring other women to take up arms against the Italians.
Lemmons is repped by The Gersh Agency and lawyer Nina Shaw.