In my interview with Steve McQueen over the weekend, one of the questions on my list to ask him, was whether he still planned to direct a feature film based on the life Afrobeat pioneer and activist, Fela Kuti, which was to star Chiwetel Ejiofor.
But, unfortunately, given only 10 minutes, I didn’t get to that question (the interview will be posted in the next couple of weeks).
However, it looks like I didn’t have to, because we have an answer to that question this afternoon.
Andrew Dosunmu (who’s sophomore feature, Mother Of George opened theatrically over the weekend to strong per screen numbers) has been hired by Focus Features to direct the same Fela Kuti film that McQueen was previously attached to.
The news was announced by Focus CEO James Schamus and co-CEO Andrew Karpen this afternoon.
The film has no connection to the Bill T. Jones Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Fela!, but will instead be based on Michael Veal’s 2000 book Fela: The Life and Times of An African Musical Icon, and has been adapted to script format by Nigerian author Chris Abani and James Schamus, who penned the most recent drafts.
Whether Chiwetel Ejiofor will still star as Fela isn’t yet known, however, given the fact that he’s seemingly *hot* at the moment, thanks to the critical acclaim 12 Years A Slave has been receiving, after its Telluride and Toronto premieres, I wouldn’t be surprised if an announcement is eventually made, revealing his attachment.
This is big for Dosunmu, a Nigerian himself, after the still barely-seen Restless City (his feature film directorial debut) and the newly-released Mother Of George. His enthralling visual style meshing with Fela’s boldness and brashness in terms of both his persona and music, should make for an interesting collision on screen.
Let’s hope Bradford Young is brought along for the ride.
I have to say how pleased I am that Focus Features is going with a black director on this (a Nigerian director especially), while other studios continue to produce biopics based on the lives of black public figures, written and directed by white writers and directors – most recently Tate Taylor replacing Spike Lee on producer Brian Grazer’s James Brown biopic.