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Disney Original Documentary Announces ‘Madu,’ Upcoming Film On Nigerian Boy Whose 44-Second Ballet Video Went Viral

EXCLUSIVE: Disney Original Documentary today revealed its next project, a feature documentary on Anthony Madu, the Nigerian boy who became a viral sensation after a video showed him dancing ballet barefoot on a rainy street outside Lagos.

Oscar nominee Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson are directing Madu, which will follow a remarkable course of events that began in 2020 when Anthony’s ballet teacher posted 44 seconds of him performing graceful pirouettes and leaps in that unexpected setting. Madu was just 11 at the time. The brief video won hearts around the world and led to Madu earning a scholarship to study at the 100-year-old Elmhurst Ballet School in the U.K.

The doc announcement came as young Madu readies for an appearance this weekend at Disney’s massive D23 expo in Anaheim, California, where fans will get to see the first footage from the film. The company says Madu, a production of Hunting Lane Films, will get a festival run before a limited theatrical release.

“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. “Anthony comes from a community with limited opportunities, making this [a] chance of a lifetime to pursue his dream… 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.”

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.”

Director Matt Ogens
Courtesy of Matt Ogens

Ogens earned an Academy Award nomination earlier this year for his Netflix short doc Audible, which followed a handful of high school students at the Maryland School for the Deaf. His credits include ESPN’s 30 for 30: From Harlem with Love, and the Emmy-nominated documentary series Why We Fight. Benson is the award-winning director of Daughters of Chibok, a documentary about the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. Madu marks the first 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 is part of a growing slate of films from Disney Original Documentary. Its critically-acclaimed Mija will premiere on Disney+ next Friday, and Mickey: The Story of a Mouse will stream on Disney+ later this fall. If These Walls Could Sing, a Disney Original Documentary about the Abbey Road recording studios directed by Mary McCartney (Paul McCartney’s daughter) just premiered at Telluride. It also has an untitled film about Jim Henson in the works, as well as Goodbye Yellowbrick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and The Years That Made His Legend, directed by R.J. Cutler and David Furnish, Elton John’s husband.

Madu appears to be a can’t miss project, given the credentials of the filmmakers and their subject. Anthony Mmesoma Madu is not only a gifted ballet dancer, but a charmer possessed of endearing enthusiasm and humility.

“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.”

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