Hunger Director Steve McQueen Directing Fela Kuti Biopic Next
by Alex Billington
December 8, 2009
Focus Features has announced that Hunger director Steve McQueen (not the action movie star from the 60s) has been hired to direct Fela, a film based on the life of African musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti (seen above). A musical just opened on Broadway a few weeks also called "Fela!" about the very same person. McQueen is a British director who broke out big with his intense political/prison drama Hunger, which went on to win numerous indie awards in 2008. McQueen is also writing the script for Fela with Biyi Bandele, adapting the Michael Veal book "Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon." Read on!
The Broadway musical and this biopic are not related. Focus is developing this based on a "rights package" they bought that consists of screen rights to Fela's music and his life story as well as Veal's book. Fela was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick. James Brown cited him as one of the originators of funk. He had some 27 wives and was constantly under attack for speaking out against oppression in Nigeria. He died from AIDS in 1997.
"Fela might be the most globally influential pop artist outside the Beatles in the last 50 years," said Focus Features CEO James Schamus. "The Broadway show is pure joy, but Steve and Biyi's vision is very cinematic and distinctive. Fela was a revolutionary figure in world culture, and Steve is an artist who had a strong vision of politics and the world even before he made his first film. They are kindred spirits."
I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of Steve McQueen or his film Hunger, but I think this is a good fit for him. I usually enjoy good biopics and it sounds like Fela Anikulapo Kuti has an incredible life story that will be inspirational to see on the big screen. I also really like seeing biopics about people I'm not familiar with, as I then get to experience the important moments of their life in theaters. I just hope McQueen moves the camera a little bit more this time, as I don't want this to end up as another dull, boring, drama like Hunger. I really didn't like that movie at all (just my personal opinion), but I do think McQueen has some potential.