Schamus also talked up a film about Fela Kuti, the Nigerian afrobeat king, that he has in long-term development. “It’s not a biopic,” he said. “It’s experimental in form,” with long movements based on Fela’s rambling songs. “I don’t do passion projects, but this could be a ‘Battle of Algiers,’ on that level.”
I’ll have to sit with this bit of news for a bit, but an experimental piece, with Battle Of Algiers-level comparisons (as a passion project), I can now understand why Steve McQueen was hired for the directing job in the first place, given his artist background and resume, especially his first film, Hunger.
It also makes sense that Dosunmu is now replacing McQueen, as he himself also directs in a style that many have labeled as “experimental” in nature – see Restless City as an example.
I initially wondered what impact the more lyrical, deliberate styles of both McQueen and Dosunmu would have on a Fela Kuti biopic (that is when I thought it was going to be a more conventional biopic, with each director’s own stamp on it). I’d expect a film on the life of Fela to be bouncy and bustling with energy, vibrancy and even immediacy, and epic in scope – terms I wouldn’t necessarily use to describe the works of either filmmaker.
But, again, given Schamus’ description of the style in which the film will be made, either director makes perfect sense! Of course I’m assuming that, 3 years later, the project’s blueprint is still the same, and nothing has drastically changed.
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.