Malena Cunningham Anderson sat mesmerized as Malik Kofi, with dreadlocks cascading past his shoulders, expertly played the cello.
The bow in his right hand glided effortlessly across the instrument’s strings.
To think she had almost skipped the party, which was held by friends in Birmingham to raise money to send the 11-year-old musician to an international music festival in Miami.
Her plan was to dart in, write a check and head out to prepare for a Christmas visit with her mother in South Carolina.
Instead, she found herself on the front row and unable to move as Kofi played then spoke.“He was barely taller than his instrument,” said Cunningham Anderson, who had spent decades as a television reporter or anchor in Atlanta, Savannah and Birmingham.
“He was playing advanced classical music. It was not “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” He could have been playing on stage with an orchestra. ”
Cunningham Anderson later approached Kofi and his grandmother, Ruby Cox, with whom he lived. “Spirit told me I’m supposed to do something with you,” she told them . A few weeks later, she began filming a documentary on the young prodigy called “Little Music Manchild: The Malik Kofi Story.”
The documentary will have a free screening at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Auburn Avenue Research LIbrary, 101 Auburn Ave. N.E.
The screening will be held as part of the annual BronzeLens Film Festival, which in Atlanta this weekend.
The project was filmed over three months with Cunningham Anderson even accompanying them to Miami.
“Here was this itty, bitty grown manchild with an old soul and extreme intelligence,” she said.
Cunningham Anderson, who had left television by that time and ran her own company, served as the writer, producer, director and investor on the project.
In the film, Kofi is called a child prodigy by his instructor, Craig Hultgren, formerly of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra; and is highly praised by the late Frank E. Adams Sr. a well-respected Alabama teacher and jazz great
.Anderson said she has not spoken with Kofi or his grandmother since the documentary was finished.
Efforts by The Atlanta Journal Constitution to reach Kofi or his grandmother were unsuccessful.
The film sat on a shelf for years.
Cunningham Anderson moved got married and left Birmingham for Pennslyvania. Then, in 2016, she thought about the documentary again.
She found a compnay that helped her with post-production work.
Then she and her attorney husband moved to Atlanta, which by then had become a film and television hub .Here she was encouraged to enter the documentary in film festivals, where the response has been good.
“All of this is spirit,” said Cunningham Anderson.
“The doumentary is “beautifully done,” said Kathleen Bertrand, executive producer of the festival. “She (Cunningham Anderson) brings her skills as a journalist to the creation of this very touching film.”