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Studiocanal Sets ‘Cuties’ Helmer Maïmouna Doucouré to Direct Josephine Baker Biopic Feature (EXCLUSIVE)

Josephine Baker
Moviestore/Shutterstock

Studiocanal is developing a feature film about Josephine Baker, the pioneering American-born French dancer, singer and actor, which Maïmouna Doucouré (“Cuties”) is attached to write and direct.  

The project is being produced by Studiocanal and Doucouré’s banner Bien ou Bien Prods., in co-production with CPB Films. The biopic has also been endorsed by Josephine Baker’s sons, Jean-Claude Bouillon Baker and Brian Bouillon Baker, and the Rainbow Tribe, which is what she dubbed her adopted children.

“We are honoured to partner with Studiocanal and collaborate with Maïmouna on this feature film about the incredible and humanist achievements of our mother,” said Baker’s sons and the Rainbow tribe, who described Baker as a “universal artist.” “Yes she could. And she did. Thank you, Mum,” the children continued.

Doucouré, who won best director at Sundance with “Cuties,” said, “Josephine Baker is such an inspiration for me and so many people around the world.”

“It’s a huge honor and also a beautiful challenge to board this project with Studiocanal. To think that through fiction I can tell her great and profoundly rich story, her beauty, her fights, her wounds and her humanity,” Doucouré continued. She said she couldn’t “wait to breathe new life into this incredible legend on screen.”  

Baker, a trailblazing Black entertainer and civil rights activist, became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture in 1927. The movie was “Siren of the Tropics.”

During her early career, Baker was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergere in Paris. One of her costumes, consisting of only a short skirt of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace, became an iconic image and a symbol of both the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties.

But Baker was much more than an entertainer. She was also a fearless civil rights activist who leveraged her popularity to fight for causes she believed in. She refused to perform for segregated audiences in the U.S.. She worked as a secret agent for the French Resistance during WWII, then supported Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, speaking at his side during his 1963 March on Washington.

Studiocanal CEO Anna Marsh said the company was “proud to be bringing this powerful, universal story to the big screen” and “grateful to Brian and Jean-Claude Bouillon-Baker for entrusting this with (them).” 

“Josephine is the definition of the modern woman; a visionary and ground-breaking human being who showed unconditional love and kindness which should be an inspiration to all,” Marsh continued.

Marsh said the ambitious film will “honor the extraordinary legacy of Josephine” under the guidance of the “immensely talented Maïmouna Ducouré.”

Doucouré, who was born and raised in Paris to parents of Senegalese origins, is one of France’s rare Black filmmakers making feature films. She grew up in a modest household and has been dedicated to making politically and socially minded work. Her short film “Maman(s),” which premiered at Sundance and won a Cesar award, was inspired by her experience as a child growing up in a polygamous family. Her controversial feature debut, “Cuties,” shed light on the sexualization of children. Along with festival laurels, Doucouré also received the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women from the Academy Women’s Initiative.

The biopic of Josephine Baker will shoot in 2023 with casting announcements hotly anticipated.