CBC offers sneak peek at Book of Negroes

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Greg Bennett
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Production was filmed from South Africa to Shelburne

by Greg Bennett

CBC has released the first sneak peek of from the Book of Negroes miniseries set to air next winter.

The story about the struggles of Aminata Diallo, kidnapped from West Africa at the dawn of the 18th century was partially filmed in Nova Scotia, including on Shelburne’s waterfront. After shoots that ranged from South Africa to Nova Scotia, filming was officially wrapped up last week.

CBC has released a handful of photos and a short trailer as part of an effort to promote its upcoming 2014-15 season.

Producers say the six-part miniseries will potentially be seen by a huge audience when it airs next year with viewers across the U.S. on the BET network and in Canada on CBC.

The decision to film in Shelburne was made largely to add authenticity as the local location was integral to the novel and to the history of Nova Scotia.

The mini-series is based on the award winning Lawrence Hill novel and is being produced by Conquering Lions Pictures, an independent production company based in Toronto under the leadership of Damon D'Oliveira and Clement Virgo.

The company’s films have in the past been selected for Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), and have been sold around the world.

The story follows Aminata Diallo, who is kidnapped from West Africa at the dawn of the 18th century, survives a harrowing Atlantic crossing, is separated from her love and must navigate the American Revolution before returning to Sierra Leone, and ultimately securing her freedom in England.

Shelburne, Birchtown and the Black Loyalists all figure prominently in the novel.

Producers have donated pieces of the set and other memorabilia from the production to the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum in Birchtown which will also eventually house the reproduction of the original Book of Negroes used in the shoot.

A documentary about the making of the film will also be offered to the museum.

Some big name actors are a part of the multi-national television project.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is an Oscar-winning actor who has appeared in many films in his career including Pearl Harbour, Radio, Jerry MacGuire, Men of Honour and Red Tails among others.

Lou Gossett Jr. is another Oscar winner, Emmy winner and veteran actor with a career reaching back into the 1950s and many credits behind him including noted roles in the TV series Roots and movies An Officer and A Gentleman and Iron Eagle.

Aunjanue Ellis, who plays the adult Aminata Diallo is known for her roles in The Help, Ray and The Mentalist.

The cast also includes Lyriq Bent. The cast also  joined by actors Ben Chaplin and Allan Hawco along with four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander (Kramer vs. Kramer, All the President's Men).

Organizations: CBC, Black Loyalist Heritage Museum, Iron Eagle

Geographic location: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, South Africa West Africa Toronto Birchtown U.S. Canada Lawrence Hill Cannes Berlin Sierra Leone England

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