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USA 2014
Directed by
Alex Gibney
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Finding Fela!

If, like me, you’ve heard of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and wanted to know more about him Alex Gibney’s documentary will serve you well.  Based around the mounting of a Broadway production showcasing the  iconic Nigerian pop musician and political activist the film, is a densely packed  history of Kuti’s life and times that marshalls an impressively informative amount of archival material and talking head interviews to give a detailed portrait of a seminal figure of what is now broadly called world music.

Less appealing are the frequent segues to the stage production, particularly the backstage meetings with  the show's director-choreographer, Bill T. Jones, with their earnest discussions of Kuti and the best way to represent him to a middle-class American audience.  Too often these feel like part of a promotional video designed to sell the show.  Even the footage of the production in full flight are relatively gratuitous as not only are they simply staged representations of events in Kuti’s life that we have already been shown archivally and discussed by first-hand players, they pale in comparison with the material of Kuti himself both in interview and performing, the actor representing Kuti looking nothing like the man we have already seen.

Despite its rather unwieldy realization, Finding Fela! is an engrossing story of a gifted and passionately committed individual, an electrifying performer and a charmer with more than a few small warts .




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