"Finding Fela" tells the story of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's life, his music, his social and political importance. He created a new musical movement, Afrobeat, using that forum to express his revolutionary political opinions against the dictatorial Nigerian government of the 1970s and 1980s. His influence helped bring a change towards democracy in Nigeria and promoted Pan Africanist politics to the world. The power and potency of Fela's message is completely current today and is expressed in the political movements of oppressed people, embracing Fela's music and message in their struggle for freedom.
Some films are made purely for entertainment, while others use the medium to tell an important story that causes people to stop and think about the world they live in. Finding Fela is of the latter category. It is an interesting look into a topic I knew nothing about, and will definitely be a work to remember. The whole film lasts just shy of two hours, and is filled with powerful imagery, but I can only give it two out of five stars.
Finding Fela is a music documentary about the Nigerian personality Fela Kuti. We learn about his beginnings, what he did with his life, and how it all ended. Much more than just about a man and the music he played, we see the political statements he made - the latter in a much clearer way due to the progress of time.
This film is an often confusing exploration of Fela Kuti, moving back and forth between archival documentary footage and the broadway play (the latter which begins the film and seems like it would be the focus). It starts out slow but gains momentum as it chugs along. The two main storylines keep you from drifting off, but it is easy to get overwhelmed. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, there is still so much you feel you don’t know about this man, and that is disappointing.
With a personality such as Fela, it was obvious that music was going to play a large role, and the creators did well in this. Music and politics have almost always gone hand in hand. Music is a way to speak to people, to make them remember something, and that is why it was such a powerful tool for Fela to use.
There is not much chatter about this film, and I don’t know if that is because of the topic, or the quality. Critic reviews have been mostly mixed to negative, with audiences responding slightly more positively. Everyone seems to agree that there is so much information about Fela and his actions that this film could have portrayed, but most believe it fell short of expectation. Despite its two-hour running time, it didn’t fit it all in, and therefore what we saw felt lacking.
As with all stories - especially those that are about real people and real events - you have to be careful how much you believe. I love that they were showing the many sides to this man, and letting the world know that after all he was just a man, and not a god.
I think the film has a limited demographic, and it will only really appeal to those who actively search for it.
Overall, I think this film is less about Fela himself, and more about what he did, who he influenced, and how this continues into the future.
You rated this film: 2
Michelle Sommerville - Cinema Paradiso
Videos exempt from classification by the British Board of Film Classification