In the middle of the global lockdown in 2020, a video of a young boy dancing ballet went viral on social media. People were more than impressed with his passion and talent, calling it awe-inspiring that he was preserving despite the conditions everyone found themselves in.
Two years after the viral sensation, Disney Original Documentary has unveiled its upcoming project: a feature documentary on Anthony Madu, a young Nigerian child who rose to fame when a video of him dancing ballet barefoot on a street outside of Lagos went viral.
Anthony Mmesoma Madu is more than a viral sensation – he is also a gifted ballet dancer, evident by the things he has accomplished. In July of 2020, Anthony also won the South African International Ballet Competition’s grand prize in a virtual event. The prize included a scholarship to attend dance classes in the US, accompanied by his dance teacher.
The announcement came just before Disney’s annual D23 Expo where fans saw the first footage from the film. The company says it will get a festival run before a limited theatrical release.
The documentary, which will be titled ‘Madu’, will be directed by Oscar-nominated Matt Ogens and award-winning Kachi Benson. It will follow his life and form the series of events that led to his virality and after. How it all started in 2020 when Anthony’s ballet instructor shared a 44-second video of him executing exquisite jumps and pirouettes in an unexpected location for 44 seconds. He was only 11 years old at the time. Because of the video, he got a scholarship from the prestigious Elmhurst Ballet School.
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“Having grown up in an isolated community outside of Lagos and with almost no formal training, audiences will get a close look at Anthony’s journey after being awarded a scholarship to Elmhurst Ballet School, one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the United Kingdom,” Disney Original Documentary said in a release.
Marjon Javadi, vice president of Disney Original Documentary, said in a statement, “Anthony’s journey is a beautiful one, full of courage, growth and acceptance. We aim to share unique, diverse and global perspectives with audiences, full of magic and heart. We’re thrilled to partner with Matt, Kachi and Hunting Lane Films to share this touching story with the world.”
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Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson’s work
Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson are both award-nominated and winning filmmakers who work primarily on documentaries. Matt Ogens earned an Academy Award nomination this year for his short documentary, ‘Audible’.
The documentary follows a high school football player at the Maryland School for the Deaf, shaken by a friend’s suicide. In it, he copes with family and relationships while anticipating his final homecoming game.
Kachi Benson is an award-winning Nigerian documentary filmmaker. He directed the “Daughters of Chibok”, a documentary about the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014. He is also a virtual reality content creator.
‘Madu’ will be the collaboration between Benson and Ogens.
“Our shared journey is about curiosity and creating an understanding of different cultures through our connection with each other,” Ogens and Benson said in a statement. “Ultimately, this is a journey of discovery, growth, belonging and acceptance, a theme we both personally relate to. Making his voice heard is our ultimate drive, and we believe Anthony’s extraordinary story will make the most captivating, emotional, and riveting film either of us have told.”
Madu is directed by Ogens and Benson and produced by Jamie Patricof, Katie McNeill and Rachel Halilej of Hunting Lane Films. Marjon Javadi oversees the project for Disney Original Documentary.
Madu appears to be a ‘can’t miss’ project, given the credentials of the filmmakers and their subject.
“Ballet is my life and I want to practice everywhere,” Madu said in an interview in 2020 with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “When I’m dancing, I feel as if I’m on top of the world.”