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Willis Earl Beal,
Alex Gibney's Finding Fela is a very nice documentary that recalls the life and times of Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti. Gibney does a good job of intercutting video footage of the musical artist, alongside interviews with people familiar with him, as well as his admirers. Though over long, this documentary does its job just fine.
The film takes us through Fela's life, including interviews with people who knew or were familiar with the artist: his manager, Rikki Stein; his drummer, Tony Allen; Sandra Izadore, a musician who worked with him; and even a brief interview with Paul McCartney. It shows us his early days when as a young man he decided, while living in Nigeria, to head to London. Fela's career rose as a popular musician, who used songs and words in the 1970's, instead of violence, to protest the war in his country, as well as addressing other social issues going on in the world at that time. Fela eventually died from AIDS in 1997, and millions of people showed up at his funeral to pay their respects to him and what he stood for.
A lot of Finding Fela seems to be thrown together, but this film is intercut in a very interesting way. While it does tell us the story of Fela, this documentary is also about the making of a musical based off of Fela's life. So while we (the audience) are watching the documentary styled life story, we are also being shown scenes from the musical being rehearsed as if they were being shown in a real historical documentary format. We even get a scene where we're shown the shrine that Fela performed in as it is today and not just in the past or in clips. This way, the film is more than just a documentary, it is also an overall tribute to Fela's influence and music.
The film portrays Fela as a human being, not as a hero or as a villain, but as someone who had flaws, such as his belief in unprotected sex which led to his contracting AIDS. I admire the film for that, because it could have been a complete love letter and shown Fela as the perfect human being, when just like all of us, he wasn't.
This is the first time I ever actually encountered Fela Kuti's name. After watching this documentary, I'm actually interested in researching more about the singer who led a pretty interesting life, if this documentary is anything to go by.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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