“Finding Fela”: Namibian Premiere presented by AfricAveinr
On Saturday, 28 February, AfricAvenir presents the Namibian Premiere of "Finding Fela".
Acclaimed documentary filmaker Alex Gibney’s latest incisive and illuminating feature film "Finding Fela" is a sweeping portrait of the artist as guerilla warrior. Set to the insistent groove of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti’s revolutionary Afrobeat sound, the remarkable story of one man’s courageous stand against a corrupt and dictatorial government gives testament to the transformative power of music as a force for social and political change.
Where: Goethe Centre Windhoek, Fidel Casto Str. 1-4. When: Saturday, 28 February 2015. Time: 19h00. Entrance: 40,- N$. Please come early. Seats are limited.
Fela’s influence spanned the globe as his soaring music and unstoppable spirit transported audiences in the Americas, Europe and, most importantly, throughout Africa. His defiantly vocal opposition to the military regimes destroying his people made him the voice of the oppressed masses—and a target of brutal government retaliation.
Finding Fela features recently rediscovered archival footage of the legendary musician in performance, in interviews and in unguarded private moments, as well as new interviews with family, colleagues and friends for a glimpse of the audacious and dangerous life of a contradictory iconoclast who defined African political thought for more than two decades.
Simultaneously, the film goes behind the scenes to observe the evolution of “Fela!”—the Broadway musical based on his life and work that was nominated for 11 Tony Awards. As the two parallel tales intertwine and merge, they form a nuanced commentary on the crucial role of art in our global society.
Fela’s passion for his music and epic crusade for his country’s future galvanized a generation of Africans and still stand as a compelling example of the transcendent power of creativity. A unique cinematic experience, Finding Fela is a tribute to every artist who has ever dedicated his or her imagination and personal charisma to unify, educate and motivate the world.
“He was a lover, a fighter, a political activist, a polygamist, a thorn in the Nigerian government's side, a bestselling recording artist, the basis for a hit Broadway show, a band leader, and most importantly, an African. Alex Gibney's Finding Fela takes an in-depth look at the life and times of Fela Kuti, the legendary Afrobeat singer-songwriter who became a musical ambassador for his country and his continent.” Rolling Stone
“Finding Fela has the makings of a classic music biopic: as thorough and soulful as Kevin Macdonald’s Marley, thrilling as Scorsese’s The Last Waltz all those years ago, or more recently Morgan Neville’s euphoric 20 Feet From Stardom, but follows an irresistible character in the same way Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man did.” Andrew Latimer
“Now, with Finding Fela, Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (The Armstrong Lie) sheds new light on the politically fiery artist with never before seen footage and documents, including Kuti's report card (there's a reason he wasn't a doctor like his brothers). By framing the biography of the musician (Kuti who died from AIDS-related complications in 1997) through rehearsals for Bill T. Jones' Tony-winning musical Fela!, Gibney presents two stories in one – the staging of a complicated production and the life of a dissident legend.” Katie Van Syckle, RollingStone
Alex Gibney (Director)
Alex Gibney is an Academy Award winner known for his gripping, deeply insightful documentaries. One of the most accomplished nonfiction filmmakers working today, Gibney directed Taxi to the Dark Side (2008), which received an Oscar® for Best Documentary Feature. For his work on the film Gibney also earned a DGA Award nomination for Best Director and a WGA Award nomination for Best Screenplay. More recently, Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God was shortlisted for a 2013 Academy Award and won three 2013 Primetime Emmy® Awards.
The director’s latest film, The Armstrong Lie, made its North American debut at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival and will be released by Sony Pictures Classics. He is also currently producing for HBO a four-hour documentary about Frank Sinatra.
In 2006 Gibney was Oscar nominated for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which also won the Independent Spirit Award and the WGA Award. The following year he served as an executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated documentary No End in Sight.
Other film credits include Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream and Catching Hell (Sports Emmy Award nominee, Outstanding Sports Documentary).
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Bio:
Fela Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, north of Lagos in 1938. His father was a Christian schoolmaster, minister and master pianist and his mother was a world-recognized feminist leader, who was very active in the anti-colonial Nigerian women's movement during the struggle for independence.
Fela was educated in Nigeria amongst the indigenous elite. Ironically, many of his classmates in his Nigerian school would become the very military leaders he so vociferously opposed.
With medical aspirations for their offspring (Fela's older brother. Koye, was to become a Deputy Director of the World Health Organization and his younger brother, Beko, President of the Nigerian Medical Association) in 1958 Fela's parents sent him to London for a medical education. Instead, he registered at Trinity College's school of music where he studied composition and chose the trumpet as his instrument. Quickly tiring of European composers, Fela, struck by Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, formed the Koola Lobitos in 1961, and his band became a fixture in London's club scene. Two years later, Fela returned to Nigeria, restarted the Koola Lobitos, and became influenced by James Brown.
Trying to find an authentic musical voice, he added elements of traditional Yoruba, high life and jazz, and "Afrobeat" was born. In 1969, Fela's Koola Lobitos traveled to Los Angeles to tour and record. During his eight months in the US, with LA as a home base, Fela befriended Sandra Isidore, who introduced him to the writings and politics of Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and other proponents of Black nationalism and Afrocentrism.
With this new politically explicit and critical worldview, Fela reformed the Koola Lobitos as Nigeria 70 and returned to Lagos. He founded a commune/recording studio called the Kalakuta Republic, complete with his own private nightclub, The Shrine, and Fela dropped his given middle name "Ransome," and replaced it with a Yoruba name "Anikulapo" (meaning "he who carries death in his pouch"). Playing constantly and recording at a ferocious pace, Fela and band (who were now called Africa 70) became huge stars in West Africa and beyond. His music served as a rallying cry for the disenfranchised, critiquing the military government, and made Fela not only a pop star but thrust him into political life. People took to the streets singing his songs and the military responded by viciously harassing Fela, jailing him and nearly killing him on several occasions.
In 1977, during a government-sanctioned attack on his Kalakuta Republic commune, Fela and other members of his commune were arrested; Fela himself suffered a fractured skull as well as other broken bones; a number of women living at Kalakuta were beaten and raped; and his 82-year old mother was thrown from an upstairs window, inflicting injuries that would later prove fatal. The soldiers set fire to the compound and prevented fire fighters from reaching the area. Fela's recording studio, all his master tapes and musical instruments and the only known copy of his self-financed film Black President were destroyed. After the Kalakuta tragedy, Fela briefly lived in exile in Ghana, returning to Nigeria in 1978. One year later, he formed his own political party, MOP (Movement of the People) and ran for president in two elections, although his campaigning was consistently blocked by the military. As the '80s ended, Fela recorded blistering attacks against Nigeria's corrupt military government. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was arrested more than two hundred times in his life, and charged with almost every conceivable crime, although only serving one eighteen month sentence in jail for a currency violation. Despite this constant harassment he continued to live in Nigeria even though, as an icon in the international world of rock and roll, soul, jazz and hip-hop, he could have at any point abandoned Nigeria and led the life of an international music superstar. His death on August 3, 1997 of complications from AIDS deeply affected musicians and fans internationally, as a unique and ineffable musical and sociopolitical voice was lost. In Nigeria one million people attended his funeral. His incredible body of work, almost 70 albums, is now available, through public demand, all over the world.