This fall, Finding Fela, directed by Academy and Oscar Award winning Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side 2008, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room 2006), will make its way across North American theaters!
The film features original music, interviews, recordings and an intense look at Fela Kuti’s revolutionary political impact on society and Nigeria throughout the 70s and 80s. Finding Fela, backed by art power house Kino Lorber, began its theatrical run here in North America August 1, 2014 and is produced by Jigsaw Productions, in association with Knitting Factory Entertainment, Okayplayer and Okayafrica.
Born Fela Ransome Kuti in 1938 Nigeria, he was the son of middle class parents that provided him with a standard formal education and a passive political foundation. However, the 60s were a formative time for both Fela and Africa experienced a major shift in governance from colonialism to independence, and Fela concentrated on music, performing with his band the Koola Lobitos, in London.
It wasn’t until 1969 that Fela would return to Nigeria from a visit to the US, fully understanding the significance and need for fair and just political structures globally. Due to the turbulent state of America post the civil rights movement, including the assassination of Dr. King, and a number of intra-cultural plights, a newly unearthed state of political unrest became a global trend for oppressed populations worldwide.
Fela in turn, ended the decade with a greater sense of responsiveness and a blueprint for sociopolitical change for Nigeria. Upon his return home, more than 1million citizens lost their lives as a result of internal conflict between the opposing Eastern (Biafra) region and the remaining unified states of dictatorial Nigeria.
In the 70s, Fela, completely concerned with rejecting and criticizing political corruption decided to respond, musically. His music, packed with his radical presence, served as a call to accountability, bringing the world closer to his opposition. Fela would spend more than 20 years living his entire life promoting democracy and Pan Africanism in Nigeria through music, his weapon of choice.
Of music, he created Afrobeat, a combination of jazz, highlife, funk, and psychedelic rock over chanted vocals, complimenting traditional Yoruba music. Of action, he gave himself and his life, spending the majority of his adulthood performing and recording extensively with his band between incarcerations. Regularly Fela was jailed, beaten, violated and framed for speaking out against the dictatorship Nigeria had become post-independence. Throughout the course of his life, he was jailed more than 200 separate times, under the name Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Embracing Afrocentrism early on, Fela dropped his birth middle name “Ransome,” and replaced it with Yoruba name “Anikulapo,” meaning “he who carries death in his pouch.” And what better name for a man that couldn’t be stopped with a revolutionary agenda? Fela Anikulapo Kuti recorded over 70 albums, all 70 weaponry for a revolution still happening.
Unabashedly, Fela opposed corruption, supporting both tradition and justice through proliferating Pan Africanism and African responsibility. Through his art he reached the masses, an international platform the Nigerian military could not access. And here with Finding Fela, viewers get to experience Fela’s iconic life and influence in full.
Enjoy the trailer below and tell us what you think! Click here for a detailed list of Finding Fela show times near you! Visit Finding Fela for the latest news and updates on Alex Gibney’s latest feat!