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S. African prod’n finds its ‘Farm’ hand

Vine Intl. to distrib pic, seeks Cannes 2004 bow

JOHANNESBURG — Richard E. Grant will play the lead in the bigscreen adaptation of “The Story of an African Farm,” the classic 19th-century novel by Olive Schreiner.

Local helmer David Lister (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) starts principal photography near the Karoo town of Matjiesfontein, 150 miles outside Cape Town, on Sept. 15.

“African Farm,” published in 1884 amid much controversy about its feminist slant, tells the story of three children who live on a farm until a stranger from England turns their lives upside-down.

The casting of Grant — who was born in neighboring Swaziland and attended the University of Cape Town’s drama school — as the stranger is a coup for local producer Bonnie Rodini of Rodini Films and helped her secure financing and distribution deals.

The modest $2 million budget has been sourced in South Africa, from the Industrial Development Corp., Sasani Studios and private individuals.

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U.K.-based Vine Intl. Pictures will distribute pic internationally and plans to promote it at Mifed in November for a Cannes 2004 premiere. South African distributor and exhibitor Nu Metro will distribute in Africa.

Rodini started writing the script and developing the project 12 years ago.

“The British have made films of so many of their classic works of literature,” Rodini said. “We need to start doing the same thing.”