Fela Kuti has had somewhat of a profile boost in recent years. The work of the late Nigerian musician and postcolonial political activist, who took Africa by storm in the 1970s and ‘80s with his pioneering Afrobeat sound, has received a large amount of interest in the past decade, with re-releases of his 45 albums as well as an enormously successful Broadway show, FELA! made about his life and music.
Now, prolific director-producer Alex Gibney (who received an Academy Award for his documentary Taxi to the Dark Side in 2007 and who is perhaps best known for his recent documentaries The Armstrong Lie and We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks) has turned his attention to the Nigerian icon, resulting in Finding Fela, a documentary that premiered at Sundance 2014 to high praise.
The film was originally intended to follow the cast and crew of three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical FELA! to Nigeria where they were to perform the show. However, Gibney recently described how the story took a change of direction when they found backstage footage about the making of the play, which showed the cast and creators going through the process of discovering who Kuti was, and why he mattered. This, Gibney says, inspired the filmmakers to go through the same process and as such it became a ‘detective story’ into the life of Kuti.
The show and its creative process are still extensively covered, but on top of that there is a broad selection of archive material - from interviews to performances - as well as new footage, including interviews with many of Kuti’s children, culled from over 1,200 hours of material. The narrative follows Kuti’s journey from his bourgeois childhood (the son of an outspoken feminist activist) to his discovery of music and women (he had 27 wives), as well as looking at the huge impact he had on Sub-Saharan Africa before his untimely death from complications due to HIV.
Kuti, though far from flawless, was a champion of “music as a weapon,” as a way of attacking the injustices of an authoritarian and violent state. Gibney points out that "a million people showed up at his funeral. So to see an artist have that kind of an impact is something really extraordinary. What a story his story is."
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
05 Sep 14 – 06 Oct 14, 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to read the Sundance review.|