Describe him as a modern-day renaissance man and you wouldn’t be far from right. Blitz Bazawule is the director of the latest film adaptation of Alice Walker’s iconic novel “The Color Purple”.
A native of the West African nation Ghana, Bazawule has co-directed a Beyoncé film, penned a novel, showcased his musical talents globally, and even set a Netflix record.
Now, he embraces his latest endeavor: bringing to life the powerful and Pulitzer Prize-winning narrative of a young black woman battling racism and patriarchy in America through a musical adaptation of Walker’s timeless work. The film premiered in the U.S. on Christmas Day, according to the BBC.
Bazawule’s Color Purple draws inspiration from a 1985 film adaptation that won actress Whoopi Goldberg a Golden Globe, and a Broadway musical that opened in 2005.
Born Samuel Bazawule in Accra, Ghana, the Atlanta-based artist faced the high-pressure challenge of directing a second film version of this celebrated classic. However, his credentials, including a background in drawing and a diverse artistic career, positioned him well for the task.
Known for his diverse artistic pursuits, the film director harbors a deep passion for music, encompassing genres such as jazz, Ghanaian highlife, Motown, and Afrobeat. Yet, it was hip-hop, specifically Public Enemy’s groundbreaking 1988 album “It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back,” that left the most significant impression on him.
“I had never heard young black people express themselves in that way before,” Bazawule argued.
Influenced by Public Enemy, the young Ghanaian who left Accra to study at Kent State University embarked on a music journey. After graduation, he relocated to New York, the birthplace of hip-hop, to pursue his musical career.
Operating under the moniker Blitz the Ambassador, he has released four studio albums, showcasing his rap skills in English, the Ghanaian language Twi, and West African Pidgin.
Bazawule has collaborated with notable African music stars such as Seun Kuti, Angelique Kidjo, and Nneka in his songs. In a noteworthy full-circle moment, Chuck D of Public Enemy appears on Bazawule’s 2011 album “Native Sun.”
Demonstrating his artistic versatility, Bazawule later used earnings from his performances to finance his critically acclaimed debut feature film, “The Burial of Kojo.”
“I realized no investor was interested in financing an African film that didn’t revolve around the narrow clichés of war and disease. Self-funding was my only option,” Bazawule wrote on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, as he attempted to raise more money for post-production.
“The Burial of Kojo” employs magical realism to narrate the tale of a young girl’s quest to find her missing father, who disappeared while working in a Ghanaian gold mine. Filmed in Ghana with a local cast predominantly speaking Twi, Bazawule both composed and performed the film’s score.
Explaining why he used the multifaceted nature of filmmaking, he indicated that he combined elements of writing, visual artistry, and music, which he describes as a quintessential mix of all creative endeavors. The film premiered in 2018 and showcased Bazawule’s diverse talents in the cinematic realm.