EXCLUSIVE: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom producer Anant Singh and his South Africa-based Videovision Entertainment have acquired the film rights to biography Heartbreaker: Christiaan Barnard And The First Heart Transplant. Written by author James-Brent Styan, the book was recently published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first human-to-human heart transplant, performed by South African surgeon Barnard. Singh is producing the screen transfer with Brian Cox and Christian Halsey-Solomon exec producing.
The story focuses on the impact of the pioneering surgery on Barnard’s personal life and South African society at large. The role of black medical staff including lab assistant Hamilton Naki and others is explored, as is the intense global rivalry that arose between other famous heart surgeons and Barnard. Today, there are about 3,500 people that have the surgery each year.
Singh said, “I have always been fascinated by the Chris Barnard story. I was 11 at the time and vividly remember the media frenzy that weekend. Also, it was a time when apartheid was at its peak and this provides an exceptional backdrop. Chris Barnard was a trailblazer having studied in Minnesota, where the Americans were progressing rapidly towards doing the first heart transplant. His life was filled with numerous dramatic twists and turns and make for a perfect filmic journey — a fascinating South African character, a global celebrity from humble beginnings. James crafted an excellent book to share with readers and this is a great basis for a film to be developed, and he did this with the help of many of the Barnard family members.”
Styan, a former senior political correspondent, adds, “I remember looking at the new Christiaan Barnard hospital being built, thinking how little I actually knew about Barnard and started reading up about his life. What followed was a year and a half of research where I was sucked in by the incredible story of a guy who became probably the most famous doctor the world has ever seen.”
Videovision is a leading South African production and distribution company whose credits include Cry, The Beloved Country; Sarafina!; Yesterday; and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.