BREAKING: Andrew Dosunmu will direct Focus Features’ drama with music Fela Kuti, which is currently in development. Focus CEO James Schamus and co-CEO Andrew Karpen announced the hiring. This is the film that has been developed with Chiwetel Ejiofor attached to star, and while a deal hasn’t gone down and nothing is definitive, he is hot stuff coming off the lead role in 12 Years A Slave. The film is separate from the Broadway musical. Focus has its own feature rights package that include Fela’s music, rights gathered by producers Lydia Pilcher and Leigh Blake.
Fela, considered Africa’s answer to Bob Marley, is as famous for his Afrobeat musical style — a fusion of jazz, funk and West African drums — as he was for speaking out against government oppression in Nigeria. He was a larger-than-life figure, had 27 wives, and his outspoken nature proved costly when his house was raided and his 78-year-old mother thrown to her death from a second-story window. He deposited the coffin on the steps of the Nigerian leader’s home.
Dosunmu most recently directed Mother Of George, starring Isaach De Bankolé and Danai Gurira; the movie world-premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and was released theatrically by Oscilloscope this month. A native of Nigeria, Mr. Dosunmu began his career as a design assistant with Yves St. Laurent. He became a well-known photographer, and his film work started through a music video he made with Isaac Hayes. He has since directed music videos for artists including Youssou N’Dour, Aaron Neville, and Common. Mr. 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 narrative feature, Restless City, world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically by Screen Media Films in 2012.