The director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, shows off the Oscar the film received for best adapted screenplay. Photo: Reuters

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins to film slavery drama for Amazon

Filmmaker excited to be working on adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad, about secret network in 18th century that allowed slaves in US South to reach freedom

Film director Barry Jenkins, whose movie Moonlight won this year’s best picture Oscar, is writing and directing a drama for Amazon based on a prize-winning novel about escaping from slavery.

The Underground Railroad will be adapted from the book of the same name by novelist Colson Whitehead. The novel has sold over 825,000 copies and won a National Book Award, one of America’s most prestigious literary prizes.

Inspired by the secret network of routes that allowed slaves to reach freedom in America’s northern states in the 18th century, the novel tells the story of young African American Cora’s escape from a Georgia plantation. She finds not a metaphorical but an actual railroad in operation beneath Southern soil.

Jenkins, 37, says he is excited to be working with such rich literary material. “Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different. It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way.”

Jenkins praised “the sweep and grandeur” of the novel’s narrative.

Amazon, which is developing the series, has not given a release date for the drama, which is slated for production by the firms Pastel and Plan B, a company owned by Hollywood star Brad Pitt.