Disney Original Documentary Announces New Feature Project on Nigerian Ballet Dancer Anthony Madu
Academy Award®-Nominated Director Matt Ogens and Award-Winning Filmmaker Kachi Benson Will Direct With Hunting Lane Films to Produce
The Film Will Shine Light Into the Life of Anthony Madu as He Continues His Ballet Career at Elmhurst Ballet School, an Academy in a Country Half-Way Across the World From His Home of Lagos, Nigeria
BURBANK, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Following a successful premiere at Telluride Film Festival of the upcoming film “If These Walls Could Sing,” Disney Original Documentary announced today its next feature project, MADU. The announcement precedes an appearance by Anthony Madu this weekend at D23, where a first look at the documentary will be exclusively shared with D23 fans. From Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Matt Ogens (“Audible”) and award-winning filmmaker Kachi Benson (“Daughters of Chibok”), the film will spotlight Nigerian ballet dancer Anthony Madu. Jamie Patricof, Katie McNeill and Rachel Halilej will produce under the Hunting Lane Films banner. The upcoming documentary project is the story of Anthony Madu’s journey as he leaves his community on the outskirts of Lagos to pursue a ballet career at a new academy in a new country halfway across the world. The film will have a festival run before a limited theatrical release.
MADU will capture Anthony’s story after being discovered through a viral 44-second video that was posted online in 2020 and garnered over 16 million views. 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. Anthony comes from a community with limited opportunities, making this chance of a lifetime to pursue his dream unique. By immersing the audience in Lagos’s culture and fascinating surroundings, Ogens and Benson use their unique perspectives to bring the film to life in the true spirit of Nigeria and its people. Featuring intimate vérité and stunning visuals, the film will immerse audiences into the characters’ worlds and examine their journeys in profoundly inspiring ways.
“Anthony’s journey is a beautiful one, full of courage, growth and acceptance,” said Marjon Javadi, vice president of Disney Original Documentary. 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.”
Anthony’s journey will be a captivating story of change, growth, acceptance and belonging. In telling his story, Anthony’s desire is to introduce and expose more of Nigeria to ballet and hopefully inspire other young men and women in Nigeria to pursue ballet. Forming a rich tapestry told on multiple continents, MADU will introduce the world to a boy chasing a dream of inspiration that will resonate with audiences everywhere.
“Our shared journey is about curiosity and creating an understanding of different cultures through our connection with each other,” said directors Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson. “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.”
Matt Ogens is an Academy Award-nominated director known for capturing authentic human stories through an evocative visual and narrative aesthetic. Matt’s Netflix Original “Audible” was nominated for an Oscar® this past year, an immersive coming-of-age documentary told from the perspective of Deaf high school students and communicated through sign language. His debut documentary, “Confessions of a Superhero,” garnered critical acclaim and a devoted following. He subsequently earned a Primetime Emmy® Award for ESPN’s “30 for 30: From Harlem with Love.” Additional credits include the two-time Emmy-nominated documentary series “Why We Fight,” which he created, as well as the Emmy-nominated augmented reality film “LA Louvre” and feature documentary “Home + Away,” following high school-athletes living on the US/Mexico border and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Matt received four additional Emmy nominations for his series work. Ogens is represented by UTA and Range Media Partners.
Kachi Benson is an award-winning filmmaker whose work primarily focuses on social impact storytelling. He became the first Nigerian to use VR for a narrative film when he released “In Bakassi” in 2017, a virtual experience of life in one of the largest IDP Camps in Northeast Nigeria. “In Bakassi” premiered at the Cairo Film Festival and went on to screen at HotDocs and the Berlin Film Festival. In 2019, Kachi’s “Daughters of Chibok” made history when it won the Venice Lion for Best Immersive Story at the Venice Film Festival, making him the first African to win the prize.
Hunting Lane produces auteur-driven narrative features, television, documentaries and digital content. On the documentary side, Hunting Lane has produced four entries in ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, earning both a Peabody Award as well as an Emmy Award. Additional documentary projects include “Us Kids,” which premiered at Sundance with director Kim Snyder; “Levitated Mass,” by filmmaker Doug Pray; “Confessions of a Superhero,” by director Matt Ogens; and HBO’s “The Off Season: Kevin Durant.” Hunting Lanes’ scripted projects include Derek Cianfrance’s “I Know This Much is True, Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond The Pines,” Matt Ross’s “Captain Fantastic,” Gavin O’Connor’s “The Accountant,” and Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s “Half Nelson.”
MADU is directed by Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson and produced by Jamie Patricof, Katie McNeill and Rachel Halilej of Hunting Lane Films. Marjon Javadi will oversee for Disney Original Documentary.
Disney Original Documentary previously announced upcoming projects “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and The Years That Made His Legend,” “If These Walls Could Sing,” the untitled film on Jim Henson, and the Oscar short-listed documentary short “Sophie and the Baron.” Critically acclaimed “Mija” will premiere on Disney+ on Sept. 16, 2022. “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” will stream on Disney+ later this fall.
About Disney Original Documentary
Disney Original Documentary is committed to pushing the boundaries in non-fiction storytelling by embracing new creative voices, approaches and styles in cinema. Our goal is to build global connections by sharing authentic narratives that resonate with broad audiences. By championing stories from diverse points of view, we aim to expand Disney’s storytelling legacy and give audiences new ways of seeing themselves, and the world we live in, on screen. Disney Original Documentary programs exclusively for Disney +.
About Hunting Lane Films
Jamie Patricof and Katie McNeill of Hunting Lane produce auteur-driven narrative features, television, documentaries, and digital content. Features include THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE starring Jessica Chastain, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC starring Viggo Mortensen, THE ACCOUNTANT starring Ben Affleck, Tim Burton’s BIG EYES starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, Derek Cianfrance’s THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Eva Mendes, Cianfrance’s BLUE VALENTINE starring Gosling and Michelle Williams, and HALF NELSON which also starred Gosling. Recent television productions include THE BOARDROOM with Kevin Durant and 35 Ventures for ESPN+, Q BALL directed by Michael Tolajian for Fox Sports, and Derek Cianfrance’s I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE starring Mark Ruffalo for HBO. On the documentary side, Hunting Lane has produced four entries in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, earn- ing both a Peabody Award as well as an Emmy Award. Additional documentary projects include LEVITATED MASS by filmmaker Doug Pray, CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO by director Matt Ogens, HBO’s THE OFF SEASON: KEVIN DURANT, THE AFTER PARTY for Netflix, Nicole Riegel’s directorial debut HOLLER, as well as US KIDS, which premiered at Sundance last year.
About Elmhurst Ballet School
Elmhurst Ballet School celebrates its 100th anniversary during the September 2022 – July 2023 UK academic year. The school opened in Camberley, Surrey, UK in 1923 and relocated to Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK in 2004. The school is a world-renowned centre of excellence in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet and prepares talented young dancers aged between 11 and 19 to become the thinking dance professionals of the future. The school nurtures individuality through a holistic approach to dance training, academics and health & wellbeing and guides students to become independent, collaborative and versatile artists, ready to take to the world stage. Elmhurst Ballet School’s dance training is of the highest quality and is delivered by current and former dance professionals. The training is enhanced by the invaluable association with Birmingham Royal Ballet, an ongoing partnership with Studio Wayne McGregor, and many visiting choreographers and dance artists work collaboratively with the students throughout the school year. Elite but not elitist, Elmhurst believes that talent is classless and its exceptional training opportunities should be available to young dancers regardless of their financial, social or cultural backgrounds. Whilst Elmhurst is an independent school, typically some 80% of students benefit from UK Government support or additional funding strands to train at the school.
Media Contact for Disney Original Documentary:
Nadia Ahmadein, 732-694-8187, [email protected]
Marcus Cammack, 424-333-4864, [email protected]