Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey Will Bring Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer to the Screen

A film adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ award-winning novel The Water Dancer is in the works with a star-studded team: Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films have partnered with MGM for the film. Kamilah Forbes, director of the stage adaptation of Coates’ Between the World and Me, is also a producer on the adaptation, which is written by Coates himself.

The Water Dancer was a New York Times bestseller, an Oprah’s Book Club pick, and widely critically acclaimed; you can read Tochi Onyebuchi’s gorgeous review of it here. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

Pitt and Winfrey’s production companies are both award-winners with a track record of complex films about Black lives—Pitt’s team won the Best Picture Oscar for 12 Years a Slave and was also one of the production companies behind Moonlight, while Winfrey has produced films from Beloved to When They See Us, and both companies were involved in the making of Selma.

The versatile Coates has also written Black Panther and Captain America comics for Marvel. If you haven’t read his Between the World and Me, you should—and you can watch the adaptation when it premieres on HBO on November 21st (it’ll be available on demand November 22nd). There’s no news yet on casting or production for The Water Dancer, so you’ve got plenty of time to read it, too, before it arrives on screen.


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