Hunger Director Steve McQueen Working on Fela Kuti Biopic
Published Dec 08, 2009British artist/director Steve McQueen has most likely spent his entire life getting confused for the American actor of the same name. In recent years, however, he has been building up his own impressive legacy, and in 2008, won the Caméra d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Hunger, his movie about the 1981 Irish hunger strike.
Now, McQueen has lined up his next feature film: a biopic about Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Variety reports that the film is based on Michael Veal's book, Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon, and was co-written by McQueen with Biyi Bandele.
If anyone's life deserves to be made into a biopic, it's Fela's. In addition to spearheading a musical movement, he was a political activist, and his 1977 hit album, Zombie, was an attack against the cruel methods of the Nigerian military. After the record became a success, the government attacked Fela and his followers, beating the musician and murdering his mother. This caused Fela to become more politically active - he formed his own party (Movement of the People) and attempted to run for the Nigerian presidency in 1979, although his candidacy was refused.
Of course, Fela's life wasn't all murder and political intrigue: in 1978 he married 27 women, only to divorce them a few years later. He remained active musically during the '80s, although his output declined towards the end of his life due to AIDS-related compilations. In 1997, he died of Kaposi's sarcoma, a viral form of cancer common among people with AIDS.
The announcement of this film comes just weeks after the premiere of FELA!, a Broadway musical that's been receiving its fair share of positive reviews.