‘Rise’ Director Akin Omotoso Hatches ‘Plot to Save South Africa,’ Based on Gripping, Real-Life Account of Country’s Narrow Escape From Civil War (EXCLUSIVE)

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Akin Omotoso, the filmmaker behind Disney Plus’ Giannis Antetokounmpo biopic “Rise,” has been attached to direct “The Plot to Save South Africa,” an adaptation of Justice Malala’s gripping book about a 1990s white supremacist plot that almost plunged the young democracy into civil war.

“The Plot to Save South Africa” will be produced by Johannesburg-based production outfit Ochre Moving Pictures, which signed a deal with Netflix last year to adapt multiple books for the streaming service alongside Omotoso. “Plot,” however, is not included in that deal, and is part of an existing partnership between Ochre and Omotoso that includes a crime drama adaptation of Nigerian playwright Femi Osofisan’s novel “Pirates.”

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The story begins in 1993, as Nelson Mandela has just been released after 27 years in prison and is in power-sharing talks with President F.W. de Klerk. After decades of resistance, the apartheid regime seems poised to fall, until a white supremacist shoots and kills Mandela’s popular heir apparent, Chris Hani, in a last-ditch effort to start a civil war.

Written by Malala, then a 22-year-old rookie journalist who was one of the first to arrive at the crime scene, “The Plot to Save South Africa” follows the growing chaos of the next nine days, when a nation on the brink was gripped with fear that the assassin’s plot might succeed.

“When Justice told me the premise of his new book years ago, I knew that it would be a project I would love to direct,” Omotoso told Variety. “Justice’s informed and passionate, first-hand rendition of factual events reads like a top-notch thriller (a genre I love) and brilliantly captures a moment forever etched into my mind (and of everyone living in South Africa at that time),” he continued. “To be working with Justice and Stan [Joseph of Ochre Moving Pictures] on turning ‘The Plot to Save South Africa’ into a film is a dream come true.”

The adaptation is the latest move by Joseph’s prolific production house, which recently launched the 1990s-set crime drama “Soon Comes Night” (pictured) on Netflix. Created by Paul S. Rowlston and Robbie Thorpe, the show was part of the Berlinale Series Market Selects showcase at the European Film Market this month and is repped globally by Red Arrow Studios International.

“For us, it was a big achievement,” said Joseph, speaking to Variety at the Joburg Film Festival. “It was great to have an international studio recognize it, great that Netflix picked it up. That made a huge impact.”

Ochre Moving Pictures has 10 titles in development, including deals with Netflix and Showmax, while also working with local broadcasters on titles such as its long-running telenovela “Scandal!” The company has also optioned six novels from the “Royal House of Saene” series from Love Africa Press, which are set in the fictional African kingdom of Bagumi. “It’s very modern and contemporary, with princes and princesses,” said Joseph. “We’ll be looking at something like ‘Bridgerton.’ This is African royalty and an African romantic story.”

The company has also optioned the romance novel “Where We End and Begin,” a love story set between the U.S. and Nigeria written by Jane Igharo. The film will be part of Ochre’s African Book Club project, a partnership with Omotoso that adapts classic and contemporary works of African literature for the screen.

“I’m really interested in this idea of creating a space for African romance. It’s a really big world of writers in that genre,” said Joseph. “The idea is to be able to take this into an American market. There seems to be a lot more space within the diaspora there, much more than in Europe. We’re trying to find a way within the diaspora and the African American world.”

The Joburg Film Festival runs Feb. 27 – March 3.

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