Kasi Lemmons will adapt and direct Maaza Mengiste’s historical fiction novel The Shadow King about the Ethiopian women soldiers, left out of the historical record, who went to battle against Mussolini’s invading army in 1935 Ethiopia. Atlas Entertainment is producing.
The novel follows, Aster, the wife of a commander in Haile Selassie’s overwhelmed army, and her household servant Hirut, who long to do more than 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.
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.
The Shadow King 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.”
Lemmons’ previous movie, Focus Features’ Harriet, earned two Oscar nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, and ten NAACP Award nominations. In addition to her directing on Harriet, Lemmons most recently executive produced the Netflix limited series Self Made starring Octavia Spencer and directed two episodes. Lemmons’ 1997 feature Eve’s Bayou won the 1998 Best First Feature Independent Spirit award, and was named Best Directorial Debut in 1997 by the National Board of Review.
Lemmons is repped by The Gersh Agency and lawyer Nina Shaw.