Joel Zito Araújo
London, Encounters, Cork, Jihlava, Johannesburg, Mill Valley, It’s All True
Nigerian music icon Fela Kuti’s pan-African significance is explored by his biographer and friend.
Seeking to look beyond the typical, exclusively music-focused look at Fela Kuti that has emerged in the years since his death, Cuban director Joel Zito Araújo, working with Carlos Moore, explores Kuti’s wide-ranging influences, locating them within a larger pan-African consciousness and revolutionary spirit that touches on such figures as Malcolm X, Maya Angelous, Sandra Izsadore, and Patrice Lumumba. With Moore as a guide, and Kuti as a soundtrack, the film chronicles the musician’s career, clashes with the government, struggles with paranoia, and eventual death from AIDS-related illness in 1997. It’s an ambitious take, but, unfortunately, also a somewhat cluttered one, with Kuti getting lost at various times, and controversial aspects of his life too often glossed over. The result is an intriguing portrait, but not a particularly satisfying or successful one.