My Friend Fela cast a new eye on Afrobeat master Fela Kuti, to counter the “eccentric African pop idol of the ghetto” vision people have, according to the director Joel Zito Araújo. Fela’s colourful and complicated existence is told through the eyes and conversations with Cuban close friend and official biographer, Carlos Moore.
Through the eyes of Moore we see some of the many influences and forces that shaped Fela’s life: from his relationship with his mother to his many and problematic relationships with women, from his ties with his spiritual advisor Professor Hindu to his mutually influential encounters with African Americans civil rights leaders some of whom he idolised. We also see his relationship with the Nigerian establishment and the relentless beatings he was subjected to: they were not a fan of his politicized lyrics. Araujo,s documentary places Fela’s personal history into the pan-African narrative so the film becomes not only a portrayal of one man but also of a pan-African generation. The question posed by Moore at the end is was it all worth it.
My Friend Fela screened at the BFI London Film Festival 2019.