Sundance 2014: The making of Alex Gibney’s ‘Finding Fela’ [Video]


Film makers Alex Gibney and Steve Hendel discuss their Sundance film “Finding Fela!”

PARK CITY, Utah -- How do you make a documentary about a musician who died more than 15 years ago and left behind a complex legacy?

What happens when your original idea for the film no longer makes sense?

How do you cull more than 1,000 hours of archival footage into a two-hour movie?

Alex Gibney, the director of the Sundance Film Festival “Finding Fela,” dropped by the Los Angeles Times Studio in Park City to discuss how these issues touch on his film, which debuted at the festival on Friday night.


He was joined by one of the film’s executive producers, Steve Hendel, who was a producer of the Broadway musical “Fela!” that is seen in the movie.

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“Finding Fela” tells the story of Nigerian musician-turned-activist Fela Kuti, who fought against corruption in his homeland and died in 1997 due to complications stemming from AIDS.

Kuti was a star in African in 1970s and 1980s -- and a beloved figure in Nigeria -- but only after his death did the singer become well-known in the United States.


Hendel’s stage show, which premiered in New York in 2008, helped up the singer’s profile. “Fela!” had a two-month run at the Ahmanson Theatre that ended in January 2012.

Though the movie is filled with intense, sorrowful moments -- including several scenes that detail the brutal beatings that Kuti received from Nigerian authorities -- there are also moments of levity.

Kuti, who made no secret of his love for marijuana, is seen smoking enormous spliffs throughout the picture.

“They make cigars look small. Those are some major league spliffs,” said Gibney, who returns to Sundance after his “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” premiered at the festival last year.


Watch the video of our conversation with Gibney and Hendel above.


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