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IN THE WORKS: 'Mother of George' Director Dosunmu to Helm 'Fela Kuti' Musical Biopic for Focus

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 16, 2013 at 4:14PM

Focus Features is developing a drama about famed Nigerian musician/activist Fela Kuti, who was also front and center in the hit Broadway musical "Fela!" "Mother of George" filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu will direct "Fela Kuti," which Focus is describing as a "drama with music," as opposed to a fullblown musical.
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Fela Kuti
Fela Kuti

Focus Features is developing a drama about famed Nigerian musician/activist Fela Kuti, who was also front and center in the hit Broadway musical "Fela!"  "Mother of George" filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu will direct "Fela Kuti," which Focus is describing as a "drama with music," as opposed to a fullblown musical. While the script, which is written by Nigerian poet Chris Albani and Focus Features president James Schamus, based on Michael Veal’s 2000 book "Fela: The Life and Times of An African Musical Icon," is not an adaptation of the Broadway musical, "Fela Kuti" will include original music from the performer himself. 

Charismatic Fela Kuti, the king of Afrobeat--a fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock, and Yoruba chants and rhythms-- took on Nigeria’s corrupt government in the 1970s, pushing boundaries in art and life. “Fela Kuti lived many lifetimes in just the one," said Schamus and Focus Features Andrew Karpen, "so 'Fela Kuti' will not be a standard biopic. The combination of Andrew Dosunmu’s insight into characters and relationships with Fela’s spectacular music will enthrall audiences around the globe.”

The Cine Mosaic production is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher and Leigh Blake. Focus executive vice president, international production Teresa Moneo is supervising "Fela Kuti" for president of production Jeb Brody.

Nigerian native Dosunmu’s "Mother of George," starring Isaach De Bankolé and Danai Gurira, was a Sundance hit and just opened well to rave reviews. Dosunmu began his career as a design assistant with Yves St. Laurent and went on to work as a photographer.  He broke out with a music video for Isaac Hayes, followed by Youssou N’Dour, Aaron Neville, and Common. Dosunmu has also directed episodes of the hit South African television show "Yizo Yizo." His documentary "Hot Irons" (1999) won the Reel Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and Best Documentary at FESPACO, Africa’s largest film festival. His debut fiction feature "Restless City" world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically by Screen Media Films in 2012.

This article is related to: In The Works, IN THE WORKS, Musical, Universal/Focus Features, Focus Features, James Schamus, Andrew Dosunmu, Mother of George


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.