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Fela and Basquiat hit the big screen

December 14, 2009

Jean-Michel Basquiat, the subject of a new documentary by Tamra Davis. Julio Donoso/Corbis

Afrofuturists, art lovers and music devotees are all breathing a collective hell yeah! with last week’s announcements that flicks chronicling the lives of afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and radiant child painter Jean Michel Basquiat will be hitting the big screens in the future.

Linda Yablonsky over at the New York Times blog gives a first look at “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child an emotional“, walk down memory lane thumbs up, calling the flick a “shattering emotional experience.” Based on an extended interview director Tamra Davis conducted with Basquiat in 1998 the doc contains some of the last remaining footage of the troubled genius art star and is accompanied by interviews with several of the art world names and folks who were closest to him.

The premier was part of Miami’s Art Basel and included a Q&A with people close to the painter including Davis, Fab 5 Freddy and Jeffrey Deitch. In her piece Yablonsky recounts a statement by Far 5 that addresses something I always thought was interesting-the relationship between Basquiat and Julian Schnabel, his art world rival and director of the 1998, which I by the way, I thought was pretty brilliant.

“Julian making a film about Jean-Michel is like George Foreman making a film about Muhammad Ali”

By most accounts, the Davis peice is the most accurate depiction of the man to date and should hit studios around the middle of next year, after it premiers at Sundance in January.

And I’m curious to see how accurate of a depiction Steve McQueen pulls off with his just announced Fela Kuti film project. I’m a fan of McQueen’s video work and dude’s been kicking art world ass since winning the Turner back in ’99, but his films usually take a more thoughtful, meditative look at their subjects.  He scored a big bag o’ kudos for his 1st feature earlier this year, the documentary Hunger, which follows the last days of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. It’ll be interesting to see how his minimalist style plays against Fela’s larger than life afrosurreal aura.

McQueen and co. won’t get to cranking until well into 2010, but the announcement continues a growing resurgence in The Black President’s popularity that started with 2003’s Fela Project traveling multimedia exhibit. There’s also Fela! the Broadway musical created by choreographer Bill T. Jones and afrobeat band Antibalas and earlier this year the Knitting Factory announced that they plan to re-release his musical catalog.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2009 7:13 pm

    Great … Fabulous … Can’t wait to see these finished works!

    • Boothism permalink*
      December 16, 2009 9:26 am

      Sounds like we’re going to have a little wait, but I’m exited too.

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