Witi Ihimaera's acclaimed novel Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies will be made into a feature-length movie, and filming is due to begin in Gisborne and the East Coast early next year.
Playwright Hone Kouka, who has links with Ngati Porou, has adapted the book into a screenplay and Ihimaera said he was thrilled with the end result.
"I'm sure people who know the book and come from Gisborne will be as excited about it as I am," he said.
"The script is looking so rich and resonant. It is filled with comedy, romance and love and it really captures the spirit of the region."
The director is New Zealander Andrew Bancroft, who has made numerous short films.
"Both Andrew and Hone have put a lot of work into the script and it has taken them quite a few years to negotiate acceptance through the New Zealand Film Commission and to obtain the huge amount of funding required for such a project," Ihimaera said.
Although the main actors of the movie are likely to be New Zealand professionals, Ihimaera said he expected there would be many local people cast for minor and extra roles, as in The Whale Rider.
He has described Bulibasha as a Maori Western, which recounts the rivalry between two great Maori families of shearers and sportsmen, spanning the period from World War I to the 1990s.
"This book is the one that people who have read most of my books think is my best. I'm hoping it will be as fine a movie as The Whale Rider," Ihimaera said.
The movie will most likely have a different title to cater for international audiences, but Ihimaera said he was happy with that, as long as it reflected the spirit of the book and the joy of the region. .
His involvement in the production of The Whale Rider made him realise that the professionals knew what they were doing, and he was content to step back and let them work their magic.
He expected filming would begin in February or March.
"After working on my first ballet this year [The Wedding], it is really neat to know another artistic collaboration is going to see the light of day in 2007."
- Gisborne Herald