Josephine Baker is coming back to the big screen.
Maïmouna Doucouré, the director behind controversial film “Cuties,” is confirmed to write and direct the upcoming Baker biopic, with Baker’s sons Jean-Claude Bouillon Baker and Brian Bouillon Baker supporting the Studiocanal film.
“I am very excited to be involved in this wonderful project. Josephine Baker is such an inspiration for me and so many people around the world,” Doucouré said in a press statement. “It’s a huge honor and also a beautiful challenge to board this project with Studiocanal. To think that through fiction I can tell her great and profoundly rich story, her beauty, her fights, her wounds, and her humanity. I can’t wait to breathe new life into this incredible legend on screen.”
The French-Senegalese writer-director won a César award for the short film “Maman(s),” which was inspired by her experience being raised in a polygamous family. Doucouré’s debut feature, “Cuties,” focused on the sexualization of a child dance troupe. The film streamed on Netflix, with the streamer later apologizing for inappropriately marketing the film.
The Baker biopic is set to begin production in 2023. Studiocanal is set to produce with Bien ou Bien Productions in co-production with CPB Films, with the Baker family involved in development. No casting has been announced as of print.
“Studiocanal is so proud to be bringing this powerful, universal story to the big screen, and we are grateful to Brian and Jean-Claude Bouillon-Baker for entrusting this with us,” Studiocanal CEO Anna Marsh said. “Josephine is the definition of the modern woman; a visionary and ground-breaking human being who showed unconditional love and kindness, which should be an inspiration to all. Under the guidance of the immensely talented Maïmouna Doucoure we are determined to honor the extraordinary legacy of Josephine with this ambitious film.”
The Baker family said in a statement, “Josephine Baker. The universal artist, woman and mother. We are honored to partner with Studiocanal and collaborate with Maïmouna on this feature film about the incredible and humanist achievements of our mother. Yes she could. And she did. Thank you Mum!”
Baker was an American-born dancer, singer, and actress. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mainly in her adopted France. Baker was the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film “Siren of the Tropics,” directed by Mario Nalpas and Henri Etievant. During her early career, Baker was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergere in Paris. Her performance in the revue “Un vent de folie” in 1927 caused a sensation in the city. Her costume, consisting of only a short skirt of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace, became an iconic image and a symbol of the Jazz Age.
Baker was a civil rights activist and even worked as a secret agent for the French Resistance during WWII. She notably refused to perform to segregated audiences in the U.S. Years later, Baker supported Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, speaking with him during his 1963 March on Washington, D.C.
Baker is at the center of A24 limited series “De La Resistance,” with “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” star and eight-time Grammy nominee Janelle Monaé playing the singer and actress. The series is based on co-executive producer and researcher Damien Lewis’ recent Baker biography “The Flame of Resistance.” Jennifer Yale (“Outlander,” “See”) will serve as showrunner.