Taika Waititi’s production company Piki Films has optioned New Zealand writer Tina Makereti’s novel The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke (Lightning Books, 2019) for adaptation as a feature film.
Carthew Neal, co-founder of Piki Films, acquired film rights from Michael Dean at Andrew Nurnberg Associates.
The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke was first published by Penguin Random House New Zealand in 2018, with the UK edition released by Lightning Books in September 2019, after editor Scott Pack acquired rights from Charlotte Seymour at Andrew Nurnberg Associates.
The story follows a Maori boy exhibited as a "living curiosity" in Victorian London.
Makereti said: "It seems strangely timely to see this story developed into a film, as we witness the toppling of colonial statues and attitudes.”
Morgan Waru, producer at Piki Films, added: “Globally, these calls for racial equality and reconciliation of the past are louder than ever. We feel so passionately about those stories, and we have the means and momentum to bring them to a global audience."
This is the first of three projects by Maori writers whose work addresses colonisation which have been signed up for development by Piki Films, with the aim of putting “indigenous voices at the centre” of the creative teams.