The satirical debut novel of Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite has been optioned by Working Title.
There’s nothing that can raise your expectations for a film like hearing that the book it is based on hasn’t even been published yet. Such is the case with My Sister, the Serial Killer. Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel isn’t due to be published until November 2018, but it has already been optioned by Working Title, the UK production powerhouse behind Darkest Hour, Baby Driver, and Bridget Jones’s Baby. Working Title will produce alongside Big Talk, whose delightfully weird body of work includes everything Edgar Wright has ever done and Joe Cornish’s awesome alien invasion comedy Attack the Block.
Sounds like a recipe for success, right? Your expectations will only get higher when you find out what My Sister, the Serial Killer is about. According to Doubleday, the book’s U.S. publisher, “Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.” Further details make My Sister, the Serial Killer sound like a deliciously disturbing read. The protagonist, Korede, harbors intense jealousy towards her beautiful, beloved, sociopathic sister, Ayoola. Yet these feelings don’t stop Korede from helping her sister cover up her crimes after Ayoola murders her third boyfriend in a row. However, everything changes when Korede’s unrequited crush expresses an interest Ayoola. Korede must deal with her sister before she kills the one bright spot in Korede’s mediocre life.
My Sister, the Serial Killer sounds like the spiritual sister to John Waters’s Serial Mom if it were set in the same universe as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. Without knowing anything else about the characters or the plot, I know I’d love to see Lupita Nyong’o embody the beautiful and dangerous Ayoola. (To be fair, I just want to see her in more things, period.) But let’s not get too carried away in hypothetical casting. After all, My Sister, the Serial Killer doesn’t even have a screenwriter yet and finding the right one is going to be key to an amazingly bizarre-sounding project like this succeeding on the big screen.
One thing is incredibly clear: My Sister, the Serial Killer has to be adapted for the screen by a woman of color. Good thing there is no shortage of candidates to take on the project. While she doesn’t yet have any screenwriting credits, Roxane Gay has been shopping herself around, albeit informally via social media, as the ideal person to write a Batgirl movie. Gay’s sharp sense of humor and feminist sensibilities, coupled with her perspective as a woman of color, would make her an intriguing fit for a project like this. Through her critically acclaimed Women of Wakanda series of comics for Marvel, she has shown a keen sense for writing tough, complicated, African women.
Another interesting prospect would be Danai Gurira. The Iowa-born, Zimbabwe-raised actress is best known for her roles on The Walking Dead and in Black Panther, but she also happens to be a celebrated playwright whose work focuses primarily on African women. Girls Trip co-writer Tracy Oliver also deserves consideration, thanks to her biting sense of humor and deep understanding of the complexities inherent in sisterhood. Imagine a script by any of these talented women, in the hands of a visionary director like Amma Asante. The possibilities are endless.
When your story focuses on potentially problematic characters — such as, you know, serial killers — perspective is everything. You need a writer who can get inside the characters’ heads and fully understand where they’re coming from if they’re going to elicit anything remotely close to empathy from the audience. And in the case of My Sister, the Serial Killer, I just don’t think a white man could do the job as well as a woman of color. There is so much more work to do to reset the gender and race imbalance that has plagued Hollywood since its infancy. If the industry doesn’t entrust interesting projects centered on women of color to women filmmakers of color, how are we ever going to move forward?
I’ll be keeping an eye out for My Sister, the Serial Killer when it hits bookstores in the U.S. in November. In the meantime, here’s to hoping Working Title and Big Talk do the right thing and hire women of color for this project.