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Finding Fela (Movie) Review

 
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011314-Celebs-Black-Films-At-Sundance-2014-Finding-Fela
011314-Celebs-Black-Films-At-Sundance-2014-Finding-Fela

 
At A Glance...
 

Genre: ,
 
Length: 119 minutes
 
Final Score
 
 
 
 
 
4/ 5


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We liked?


A fascinating portrayal of a historic musician and activist.

Not so much?


The making of the musical somewhat detracts from the overall story.


Final Fiendish Findings?

“Music is the weapon of the future.” Finding Fela is a movie with an absolutely fascinating subject – and sadly, one many people know nothing about. Fela Kuti was a musician, a performer, and an activist, and with his fearless style, he motivated the people and fought back against an oppressive government in the best […]

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Posted August 6, 2014 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings?
 
 

“Music is the weapon of the future.”

Finding Fela is a movie with an absolutely fascinating subject – and sadly, one many people know nothing about. Fela Kuti was a musician, a performer, and an activist, and with his fearless style, he motivated the people and fought back against an oppressive government in the best way he knew how – with music.

Finding Fela is a movie that tells two stories at once. First, there is the story of Fela, and it is told really well. Fela Kuti himself is gone, but many of the people who worked, lived, and loved with him live on. There are interviews with family members, band members, and many others who knew him, telling stories of the Fela they knew – and not holding back. Yes, he was a fearless fighter for what he thought was right, but he was also a womanizer, a pot smoker, and not that great of a father. The raw honesty of these interviews make for an even more compelling picture of Fela as a man.

In addition to these interviews, there is a lot of footage of Fela himself, performing the endless songs he was known for, surrounded by gyrating dancers and band members pouring their heart and soul into their music. Fela would have nothing less than perfection, and his attention to detail showed in his packed audiences. Fela’s songs were often a public denouncement of the government policies in Nigeria, and naturally that wasn’t well received from an oppressive regime. It all makes for a truly fascinating story of an activist who was really just a man like everyone else – with all the faults and shortcomings that come with humanity – yet he was a man who chose to rise above all that and fight for the people, at any cost.

Running concurrently with the stories and interviews about Fela is the story of the making of FELA!, a broadway play depicting the musician’s life. The process of the actors, dancers, director, and other staff of the musical piecing together how they will perform the show about Fela’s life is interspersed with the actual story of Fela, often switching back and forth between clips of Fela himself and the actor portraying Fela. On the one hand, I do enjoy a good “making of” story, and it was a nice way to portray portions of Fela’s personality and life that they didn’t have on film. In another way, though, it almost served to switch the focus off the life of Fela, and instead place it onto the making of the show, particularly when we hear the director speaking of decisions such as deciding not to include his death in the musical, even though it was quite relevant to the times. Still, the making of the musical is what brought focus back to his very interesting life.

Finding Fela is a very well done portrait of a truly fascinating life. Fela Kuti was a very important man, both in terms of what he did as an activist and as a musician, and yet many people today have never even heard his name. With honest interviews from those who knew him best accompanied by clips of his performances, viewers will come away with a clear understanding of who he was and what he stood for. While the making of FELA! the musical seemed at times to almost detract from the story of Fela the man, it does serve well to fill in the pieces of his life, as well as offering an interesting behind the scenes look at what goes into putting together a Broadway show.


Amy

 
U.S. Senior Editor & Deputy EIC, @averyzoe on Twitter, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @macanthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)