MAMA AFRICA ON THE BIG SCREEN
The late iconic South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba is finally getting recognition in the form of her own feature-length film.
Although the Grammy Award-winning artist has been in countless documentaries before, and was the subject of 2011’s Mama Africa by awardwinning director Mika Kaurismäki, this will be the first time her life story will be fictionalised in a feature film.
The as-yet-untitled film will be made by US production house De Passe Jones Entertainment. The company is co-owned by Suzanne de Passe, who wrote the Billie Holiday movie Lady Sings the Blues, and business partner Madison Jones. The duo is also currently working with Steven Spielberg on a film on Martin Luther King’s life.
Although there are no South Africans listed on the production yet, according to online reporter Deadline, De Passe says they will be making the movie with the help of the Miriam Makeba Estate, Miriam Makeba Foundation and Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust.
Makeba, affectionately known as Mama Africa, was born in Johannesburg in 1932. Her professional career began as part of local a cappella group Manhattan Brothers. She would later record with Skylarks. But it was her hit single Pata Pata in 1956 that made her a household name in South Africa.
After being exiled, Makeba moved to the US, where she achieved massive success and spoke out against the apartheid regime. Her marriage to Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, however, led to her US record deals being revoked and her national tours being cancelled. She then moved to Guinea and later became the UN’s first black female representative.
Makeba passed away in 2008, aged 76, leaving a substantial body of work behind. The film will track her renowned songs, including The Click Song, Mbube, Malaika and I Shall Be Released, which are hailed as South African classics. During her lifetime, Makeba worked with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Odetta, Hugh Masekela and Paul Simon.
Also working on the movie will be Broadway producer Willette Klausner, music producer David Franco and journalist Marc Le Chat, who met Makeba in the late 1980s and became her publicist and confidant for 15 years.
There is no release date set for the biopic.