In an earlier post, I asked if anyone knew anything about a film project called Beowulf: Prince of the Geats. When no response came, I decided to investigate on my own. What I found is a fascinating project.
According to Scott Wegener, the executive producer, Beowulf: Prince of the Geats is a two-hour long all-volunteer feature film for the benefit of the American Cancer Society. By "all volunteer," they mean that the film had no budget whatsoever. Everything was donated, from the time of the cast and crew to the airfare, food, lodging, boat rental ... everything. The film has already been shot (in Florida, Colorado, and Norway), and is now just in the editing phase. The plan from this point is to sell the broadcast rights to PBS, and try to time it so that it can be aired on PBS just before the Zemeckis/Gaiman Beowulf film is released this fall.
Wegener said he was going for authenticity in the film ... authentic clothing, eating utensils, religious practices, etc., that one might expect from a Viking culture like the Geats. The storyline is going to be as faithful as possible, and will include such oft-omitted scenes as the race with Breca, AND will also include the elderly-Beowulf fight with the dragon! That's right, folks, someone is actually going to do the last part of Beowulf straight up!*
One element, though, is going to be very different. The actor they got to play Beowulf is black. In order to work out how Beowulf could be black in a faithful adaptation, here's how they're doing it:
Beowulf's father is an African explorer who sets out to find the edge of the world. By the time he reaches Geatland, he decides he's traveled far enough, and settles down marrying into the local nobility. In other words, Beowulf and his father aren't just Waegmundings -- they are waaaaaaymundings, from waaaaaaay far away. Beowulf grows up and grows through his adventures. Unferth's partial rehabilitation in the section with Grendel's mother (known as "Helldam" in the film) continues on, and he returns to Geatland with Beowulf as an emissary. After Beowulf's death, Unferth takes his father's map and follows it back to Africa, where he tells of Beowulf's adventures.
Beowulf: Prince of the Geats will begin and end in Africa, with the familiar part of the story told in flashback form by Unferth. It strikes me as a rather elegant way to solve the race problem, and also allows the narration of the familiar story to do difficult things, such as jump ahead fifty years. Plus, I can't wait to read all the freshman essays by those who watched the movie rather than read the book.
At this point, it is too late for those interested to get involved with the production of the movie, but you can still contribute. If you have a loved one who is a cancer victim or survivor, you can donate $50 through B:PotG to the American Cancer Society, and your loved one's name will appear in a list of dedications in the closing credits.** It also strikes me that another way to get involved is to write about it on your web page. Also, if you are a computer-geek-type (and I know there are plenty among us medieval-geek-types), they could use some help with their website.
*And it's about dang time.
** The deadline for this is roughly the end of September, so if you want to get a dedication for your loved one, sooner is better than later. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.