Saturday, 18 October 2014

Finding Fela

Fela Kuti is a name with much behind it. Forefather of Afrobeat and a widely renowned Nigerian activist, whose legacy has been largely lost in the West. Finding Fela sees documentarian Gibney attempt to alter this failing. The film looks loosely at the convening of the 2009 broadway musical, Fela!, and how it brought the musician's music to the masses - just as the film now continues to do. Through a combination of footage, photographs and intimate interviews with those who knew and were inspired by him, a picture is constructed that acknowledges ever aspect of his world. The complex history of Nigeria, detailing the civil war and the following military regimes that reigned throughout the 60s and 70s, alongside Fela's own life and music. Interweaving all these stories that are so full in their own right is a difficult thing to manipulate without losing the depth of the subjects, but Gibney does so with a sophistication that greatly informs the viewer while still leaving much to explore. 

This is a history marked with violence and hardship, but set to a narrative of Fela's music it is coated with a richness that expresses the joy and the passion of the people of the country. So no longer is this a faceless history or even an unknown place, it is a personal account. The film then hands to the West a glimpse of a world that is perhaps entirely foreign to them. Not only do we play witness to a meticulously sculpted and detailed portrait of a man, a musican, and a visionary but the country that inspired and fuelled him. We discover how Fela's life informed his music, so that his history is laced in the lengthy compositions. To find the man behind the songs you have to look through them, and Gibney does just that, using them as a premise for exploration.

When we think of revolutionaries there are names that reappear - Nelson Mandela, Malcolm x, Che Guevara - these are icons whose legacies have been solidified in history. Finding Fela places Kuti in his rightful place among these, as one of the only men who was brave enough to stand up against the authoritative military regimes of Nigeria. Here we are provided with a history that we should know. Through his music, his strong defiance was expressed in a way that spoke to the masses.  Not only did Fela shape the history of afrobeat, he provided Nigeria with a voice that lives on years past his death. Finding Fela ensures that this continues to happen. Forever live Africa. Forever live afrobeat. The meaning of Fela is now brought to England and people should be urged to witness it. 

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