When we caught up with “12 Years A Slave” director Steve McQueen in Toronto he told us he wanted to do something a bit different for his next movie. “I’ll do a musical next. I want to do a musical, that’s what I want to do,” McQueen said, so naturally our thoughts turned to “Fela Kuti,” the long developing biopic of the afrobeat legend. McQueen had been attached to this one for a while, even before he shot “Shame,” with talk of his ‘Slave’ star Chiwetel Ejiofor taking the lead role. But it looks like things are changing.
The Wrap reports that Andrew Dosunmu, director of the recently released “Mother Of George,” has taken over helming duties on the flick. Based on Michael Veal‘s book “Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon,” the film has seen Nigerian poet Chris Abani and Focus Features CEO James Schamus tackling the the most recent drafts of the screenplay, which the latter promises “will not be a standard biopic.” Which is certainly heartening news given the electric life Fela Kuti lived, which not only found him transforming music, but also politics, in particular ruffling the feathers of the Nigerian regime. His personal life was equally storied, with Fela claiming up to 27 wives at one point, but his lasting legacy is surely his dynamic, inimitable music which still grooves pretty damn hard today.
And the choice Dosunmu is a pretty great one. While of course, we’d love to see what McQueen would’ve done with it, “Mother Of George” provides ample evidence of Dosunmu’s skills behind the camera, both with actors and in creating a vibrant, very visual onscreen world. And that combined with Fela’s music cold be a pretty powerful pairing.
No word whether Ejiofor is still being considered for the lead, or even when this is aiming to shoot, but hopefully we’re not waiting too much longer. Until more details arrive, turn up your speakers and listen below.