Steve McQueen, director of the widely acclaimed film Hunger, has announced plans to adapt the novel Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon into a feature film about the influential Nigerian musician. McQueen will be co-writing the film along with Nigerian-born playwright Biyi Bandele. James Schamus of Focus Features is going to produce the film and no cast has been announced yet.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti was an influential musical artist who invented a style called “afrobeat,” which combines jazz, funk, and West African drumming. His personal life was full of tumult and scandal that make him perfect for a Hollywood biopic. He was at one point married to 27 women, but eventually divorced all of them stating that “marriage brings jealousy and selfishness.”
He was also a political activist who was constantly in conflict with his home country of Nigeria’s corrupt government. After writing a song referring to soldiers as “zombies” who foolishly follow their government, he was withdrawn from his commune and beaten by members of the government. His mother was a feminist activist who was murdered by the government, causing Fela to place her coffin on the steps of General Olusegun Obasani’s home. He dies of AIDS-related illness in 1997.
There was recently a Broadway stage adaptation of Fela’s works that is currently playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Titled simply Fela!, the production uses some of the artists most popular songs with staging by Bill T. Jones and featuring a dynamic lead performance by Sahr Ngaujah. The film adaptation is not based on the musical, but it is definitely worth checking out if you are not familiar with Fela or his music.
Here is a preview of the Broadway show:
The yet to be title Fela biopic will begin filming in 2010 and has an anticipated release in 2011.
[Source: Empire Online]