The Criterion Channel is hosting an incredible, robust program of shorts and features inspired by Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2015 repertory series Space Is the Place: Afrofuturism on Film. Programmer Ashley Clark expands on the roster of Black-led sci-fi films he curated for that series, adding many more titles to create the streaming platform’s Afrofuturism collection. Hyperallergic has highlighted some of the picks in the past, such as Nuotama Bodomo’s Afronauts (2014) and Keisha Rae Witherspoon’s T (2019). I would heavily recommend basically everything in the program, which includes classics like Yeelen (1987), Born in Flames (1983), and The Brother from Another Planet (1984). Here are some more off-the-beaten-path films in the lineup that you shouldn’t overlook.
The Last Angel of History (1996)
There’s no better way to delve into Afrofuturism than to check out a solid primer on the movement. Director John Akomfrah of the UK’s Black Audio Film Collective introduces everything from the music of George Clinton to the writings of Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delaney, exploring how the genre remixes older traditions of Black art.
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1968 < 2018 > 2068 (2018)
Using the scholarly collection Black Quantum Futurists: Theory & Practice as its basis, this short from Keisha Rae Witherspoon questions our agreed-upon conception of time, musing on the proposition that rather than cause-and-effect, the past can be predetermined by the future. The films offers examples in the form of political maneuvering making war inevitable, and of institutional racism trapping Black people within certain fates. It’s difficult to articulate but magnetic to watch.
I Snuck off the Slave Ship (2019)
Artist/musician Lonnie Holley and co-director Cyrus Moussavi created this mesmerizing tone poem. The “slave ship” in question is America itself, and escape is posited as manifesting within everyday forms of creativity and interpersonal connection. The haunting recurring motif of a face made out of twisted wire exemplifies this theme.