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Steve Coogan, Stephen Dorff, and Rapper K’naan To Star In Nick Broomfield’s ‘The Catastrophist’

Written by on September 4, 2011 

Variety brings us one of the more oddball pieces of casting news in at least a day or so: British comedian Steve Coogan, Sofia Coppola‘s Somewhere star Stephen Dorff, and Canadian rapper K’naan will be headlining documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield‘s adaptation of Ronan Bennett‘s novel, The Catastrophist

What’s so weird about this? Well, the novel is described as “a love story set against the Belgian Congo’s decolonization in the 1960s.” Beyond that, Broomfield apparently wants to shoot this in the Tanzanian mining town of Mwanza. If they can pull this off, it will mark the first foreign production in that part of Africa since Howard Hawks directed John Wayne in the jungle adventure flick Hatari! in 1962. (Don’t feel bad if you haven’t seen it — it’s not exactly The African Queen.)

Broomfield is famous for his controversial documentaries, most notably Kurt & Courtney, Biggie & Tupac, and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. Like Michael Moore, he’s always careful to inject his docs with a healthy dose of himself. This would be his first narrative feature since 2007’s Battle For Haditha, but he does have a new doc, Sarah Palin: You Betcha! set to premiere at this year’s TIFF. Watch a rather hilarious two-minute clip right here. (Brief, annoying aside: watch the Palin doc footage and tell me that Broomfield isn’t saying what every rational person in America is thinking and can’t be bothered to say. That is all.)

Broomfield was evidently inspired to make The Catastrophist after shooting his National Geographic doc, Albino United, which examined an albino soccer team; the country’s “untapped potential” inspired this adaptation. There are no further details on when filming will begin for the project, and given that Tanzania is at least as politically unstable as anywhere else in Africa, expect this project to stay up in the air for a little while. Broomfield‘s Layafette Films will be teaming with The Hurt Locker producer Donall McCusker, Escape Pictures’s Paul Miller, and Channel 4 for this production.

Broomfield is a first-rate muckraker, but generally as subtle as a jackhammer tearing up a sidewalk at 4:00 AM on a pristine Christmas morning. I’m not sure if he can handle a love story, but he’ll be comfortable with political overtones. Here’s a synopsis of the novel (via Amazon):

Short-listed for the Whitbread Novel Award, “The Catastrophist” is a haunting novel set in the politically charged landscape of the Belgian Congo just before independence. At its heart is the passion between novelist James Gillespie and the fiery idealistic journalist Ines, whom he follows to Africa as their affair begins to fray. They are as unlike as lovers can be; he is willfully apolitical and desperate for her love, while she is obsessed with the unfolding drama, caught up in history, hero-worship, and soon, a new passion. In a country that will self-destruct upon giving birth to itself, Gillespie is plunged into violence and betrayal, and moved by love to a final act of nobility. In his ravishing U.S. debut, Ronan Bennett delivers heart-stopping suspense, profound moral questioning, and a searing depiction of a doomed love.

What do you think of Nick Broomfield? Did you find Kurt & Courtney to be a rather convincing indictment of Courtney Love? Would you see The Catastrophist? Do you think Sarah Palin is as worthless as he does?

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