EXCLUSIVE: Mark Tonderai and his Shona Films are developing a feature film based on Bernice L. McFadden’s critically acclaimed novel The Book of Harlan which won both the American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work this year. Tonderai is adapting and will direct with McFadden helping to produce.
The novel, published by Akashic Books, follows a jazz musician who is imprisoned at Buchenwald after migrating from the U.S. to Paris in the 1930s. The book is about Harlan and then eventually his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, who are asked if they would like to play in The Harlmen of Paris at a cabaret. The two American musicians accept the invitation and end up in Paris. Eventually, the Nazis move into Paris, and the two are thrown into the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. The historical fiction book is rich in detail.
Tonderai previously directed the pilot for the Netflix Original series Paranoid and directed the pilot and the entire run of episodes of Harlan Coban’s The Five for Sky in the UK. Tonderai’s Shona Films also has the period murder mystery Fordlandia in the works with Sky in the U.K. which is being co-written by Tonderai and Adam Sussman.
Tonderai is repped by UTA, The Gotham Group and 42. McFadden is repped by Amy Schiffman at Intellectual Property Group.