CANNES — Cyril Gely, scribe of Omar Sy hit “Chocolat,” is adapting U.S.-set thriller “I Spit on Your Graves,” the celebrated American race relations/revenge novel that made and killed -literally – French literary legend Boris Vian, a friend of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
Set in a contemporary Southern U.S., to be shot in English,“I Spit on Your Graves” will be directed by Santiago Zannou, a Spanish Academy best new director Goya winner for “The One-Handed Trick.” Morena Films, producers of Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” and Oliver Stone’s “Comandante,” one of Spain’s best financed and most cosmopolitan of production houses, produces with France’s Mare Nostrum, headed by Alexandra Lebret, which garnered with Morena on Antonio Banderas’ “Altamira.”
Written in 1946, “I Spit” became a sensation when a copy was found on the bedside table of a strangled girl. France’s Catholic Church claimed that the pulp novel’s sexual charge incited her attacker to murder, Patrick Vian, son of Boris Vian, recounted at Cannes.
Zannou’s adaptation will be set however, in a contemporary U.S., a mark of its continuing relevance, 70 years after publication. In it, a mixed-race guy, in his twenties, sees his brother murdered after having an affair with a white woman. In revenge, he seduces as many white woman as he can as events spiral out of control, and the police are soon on his case.
“I Spit on Your Graves” portrays the craziness of youth, the desire to fit in but be different, to break with the establishment, the status quo, something common over all the world, and the desire for revenge creates a large suspense,” commented Zannou, whose father is from Benin, and mother Spanish.
“The film has the style of ‘Shame’ or ‘American Psycho,’ where audiences will like and root for the protagonist, but his acts also generates a certain fear,” he added, saying the film will portray two-way racial hatred.
Per Morena Films producer-partner Alvaro Longoria, “I Spit on Your Graves” will be structured as a Spain-France-Canada-U.S. co-production, shooting in both Canada and the U.S., with, he aims, a U.S. producer-distributor on board.
“When I read the book, and this is a book that Santiago wanted to make for many years – I thought: ‘This is amazing, it could happen today. This racism is imbedded in society, you just have to scratch a little and there it is.’”
“I don-t think things have changed that much since my father wrote the novel. Planes, cars change, but people-s minds can remain much the same,”Patrick Vian added.
Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) made a 2013 big-screen makeover, “Mood Indigo,” and starring Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris, of Vian’s “L’Ecume des jours.’”
A first adaptation of “I Spit on Your Graves” was released in 1959. Boris Vian attended the premiere, rose to his feet to protest at the film, and dropped dead from a heart attack.