British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo and American star Will Smith are producing a Netflix film based on British-Nigerian author Tọlá Okogwu’s novel Onyeka & the Academy of the Sun.
The superhero story, described as Black Panther meets Percy Jackson, will be adapted by Oyelowo (Les Misérables) and Smith (King Richard)’s respective production companies Yoruba Saxon and Westbrook Studios.
It’s about a British-Nigerian girl who learns that her hair has psychokinetic powers. Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where children with superpowers are trained. Onyeka and her new friends at the academy must soon put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies.
The film adaptation will be written by Ola Shokunbi and executive produced by Okogwu, Westbrook Studios’ Heather Washington and Yoruba Saxon’s Jessica Oyelowo.
Okogwu said on Instagram: “From the moment I finished writing Onyeka & the Academy of the Sun, I knew it would make an epic film. So it is with great joy I get to say that it is being adapted for film by Netflix.”
The debut date on Netflix is yet to be announced.
Smith launched Westbrook Studios in 2019, while Oyelowo co-founded Yoruba Saxon in 2014.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Studios has partnered with Nigerian production company EbonyLife Studios to work on TV and film projects connected to the African continent.
The projects include Dada Safaris, an ‘Afropolitan’ comedy-drama series that follows four best friends who find themselves at personal and career dead-ends.
This is joined by TV series The Gods, which focuses on a pair of married Cambridge professors who set out to find answers to a surge of natural disasters but find seven long-forgotten African gods instead.
The first movie coproduced by the two studios will be Are We Getting Married?, a comedy set in the US about the daughter of a wealthy Nigerian family who falls in love with a nerdy but charming African American from Atlanta.
Eli Shibley, Westbrook Studios’ senior VP and head of international TV and film, said: “As we set out to focus our initial slate of international content for the studio business across a diversified set of key territories and regions, the creative energy and world-class artistry coming out of Africa is absolutely undeniable.”
Regarding the link-up with EbonyLife founder and chief exec Mo Abudu, he added: “We are thrilled to be working with a best-in-class producer like Mo and her EbonyLife team to tell stories that uniquely celebrate African characters and perspectives and resonate with fans of great film and television around the world.”
Abudu said: “We all dream of lofty goals becoming a reality, then one day those dreams come true. I’m proud to announce that our vision of EbonyLife Studios being in partnership with Will and Jada’s Westbrook Studios is now real.
“Westbrooks’ goal is to create and curate powerful and inclusive content. This is completely in line with our vision at EbonyLife – to tell global African stories from our perspective. Together, we will be developing a slate of projects that reflect our shared goals. We are beyond excited.”
Abudu said the two companies will focus on “creating the largest continent-wide ecosystem within which we harness and grow our creative economy, creating countless opportunities for all that work within our sector, in front of and behind the screen, never forgetting that our primary aim must be to tell stories that are world-class, exciting, relevant and entertaining.”
Westbrook’s recent expansion includes an international pact with Israel’s Euphoria producer Tedy Productions, while EbonyLife has previously struck deals with studios including Netflix and Sony Pictures TV.