More of a straight-up promotional film or a feature-length electronic press kit designed to hype Femi Kuti than a balanced documentary, the Live At The Shrine DVD comes off like Palm Pictures' idea of added value to boost sales of the accompanying live concert CD focusing on Kuti's finger-pointing material.
French filmmaker Raphaël Frydman's goal appears to be to present Fela Kuti's son - the Ziggy Marley of Afrobeat - as a socially aware and politically active chip off the old block, and to do so he's been given amazing access to the young Kuti in his renovated Ikeja warehouse space, dubbed the Africa Shrine, where he lives with his "girlfriends" and performs every Sunday night. But instead of a probing exploration of the real-life drama of running the massive space in the heart of impoverished and politically corrupt Lagos, what we get is some dull concert footage intercut with Kuti's employees calling him a "prophet."
Every scene appears to be carefully scripted, from the lengthy opening sequence showing Kuti tooting various horns as part of a daily rehearsal regimen to his cheery request for patrons to stop throwing their drinks around. Even the argument with his backing singers over the song selection for the live album looks staged. And that's really the only dissenting opinion we see throughout the entire film.
Femi Kuti plays the Opera House tonight (Thursday, July 7).