NEWS

Elmhurst Ballet School Student Anthony Madu stars in Disney Original feature length documentary film

The film shines a light on the life of Anthony as he trains at Elmhurst in Birmingham, halfway across the world from his home in Lagos, Nigeria.

15 February 2024 Posted by Elmhurst Ballet School

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Following a successful world premiere, opening the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on 7 February, the Disney Original Documentary film MADU will be released on Disney+ on Friday 29 March. From Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Matt Ogens (Audible) and award-winning filmmaker Kachi Benson (Daughters of Chibok), the film spotlights 14-year-old Nigerian ballet dancer Anthony Madu. The documentary is the story of Anthony’s journey as he leaves his community on the outskirts of Lagos to pursue a ballet career, training at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham.

MADU captures 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, viewers 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 UK. Anthony comes from a community with limited opportunities, making this a unique chance of a lifetime to pursue his dream. By engaging the audience in Lagos’s culture and fascinating surroundings, Ogens and Benson use their unique perspectives to bring the film to life. Featuring candid realism and stunning visuals, the film immerses viewers into Anthony’s world and examines his journey in profoundly inspiring ways. Anthony’s journey is a captivating story of change, progression, belief 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 across multiple continents, MADU introduces the world to a boy chasing a dream that will resonate with audiences everywhere. Anthony first attended Elmhurst Ballet School in May 2021 after the school reached out to him following the viral 44-second video of him dancing barefoot in the rain outside his Lagos home. The video resulted in vast amounts of publicity for Anthony, including major broadcasters and newspapers all over the world.

In May 2021, Anthony visited and lived at Elmhurst for three days, to experience life as a full-time boarding student at the school. During the three days, Anthony experienced dance and academic classes and was observed in ballet classes by the artistic team. At the end of his three-day stay, Anthony was offered a full-time place at the school. Anthony joined the school on a full bursary scholarship in September 2021 and boards full-time. Filming of MADU at Elmhurst Ballet School began in September 2021 as Anthony settled into boarding, dance training, and academic classes. Over the course of the year, filming covered all aspects of Anthony’s life at Elmhurst, from artistic to academic classes, from boarding to the Health and Wellbeing offers. Filming also included Anthony’s UK life away from the school: his downtime in Birmingham; weekends and holidays with guardians and friends; and travelling home to Nigeria during school holidays. Robert Parker,

Artistic Director of Elmhurst Ballet School said, “I first encountered Anthony during his visit to the school in May 2021. The school invited him to join the year 7 boys in their ballet class and I was eager to observe him dancing in person, following the popular footage of him in Nigeria, dancing in the rain. Upon introducing myself, he immediately conveyed his gratitude and rushed towards me, enveloping me in a heartfelt hug! As I watched him dance, it was immediately apparent that he possessed a great sense of presentation and artistic expression, which he used effectively to convey his passion for dance.

Jessica Ward, Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School added, “When I first saw Anthony dancing in the streets of Lagos via Instagram during lockdown, I felt strongly that this young person had true grit! Anthony's love for dance and music is unmistakable; it's practically woven into his essence. His innate love for dance is lovely to witness. Having closely observed Anthony's growth during his time at our school over the last two and a half years, I've witnessed his remarkable strides in both ballet and academics. Anthony's presence brightens our school; his enthusiasm is palpable in both the dance studio and the classroom. At Elmhurst, our hope is for every student to flourish during their time with us. Watching Anthony's journey unfold has been immensely rewarding. I'm incredibly proud of how much he has grown and developed. I eagerly anticipate the world witnessing MADU and experiencing Anthony's exceptional talent and journey."

MADU is brought to Disney+ by Academy Award®-Nominated Director Matt Ogens and Award-Winning Filmmaker Kachi Benson. Matt Ogens is known for capturing authentic human stories through an evocative visual and narrative aesthetic. Matt’s Netflix Original Audible was nominated for an Oscar® in 2022, 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. 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 (Internally Displaced Person) Camps in Northeast Nigeria. 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.

Directors Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson said, “Our shared journey is about curiosity and creating an understanding of different cultures through our connection with each other. Ultimately, this film is a journey of discovery, growth, belonging and acceptance, themes we both personally relate to. Making Anthony’s voice heard has been our ultimate drive, and we believe Anthony’s extraordinary story makes the most captivating, emotional, and riveting film either of us have told.MADU is released on Disney+ on Friday 29 March.