Journeys through Afro-futurism at the Barbican Cinema in June

Journeys through Afro-Futurism at the Barbican Cinema throughout June looks at the origins of Afro-futurism and explores how the traditions of aesthetics – imagining a future cinema rich in arts, science and technology, seen through a dark lens – have an impact on cinema today.

Matthew Barrington, film curator, says, “For me, Afro Futurism, as an idea, is a wonderfully rich idea that engages with the politics and experiences of the entire black diaspora; and through language incorporating science fiction, religion, African iconography, and advanced technology, it projects the black figure into an uncertain and speculative future. The films in this program are spread across time and space, while maintaining that underlying preoccupation with looking into the past and the present to wonder what possibilities the future holds for us.

The Barbican season begins with a look at these very origins of Afro-Futurism in film and opens with John Coney’s cult classic Space is the place (USA 1974), an eccentric mix of African iconography and space-age technology, and follows the journey of famed jazz musician and astro-traveler Sun Ra, who leads an intergalactic movement to relocate the black race to a space colony Utopian.

by Shirley Clarke Ornette: made in America (USA 1985), is his impressionistic portrait of the legendary free jazz innovator Ornette Coleman which captures the evolution of this radical musician over three decades and includes some of the very first musical style segments ever made. Contributors include William S. Burroughs, Brian Gysin, Buckminster Fuller, Don Cherry, Yoko Ono, Charlie Haden, Robert Palmer, Jayne Cortez and John Rockwell.

The season expands to see how Afro-Futurism has evolved and where it is now.

The British beginnings of Ratnik (Nigeria 2020), a dystopian Nollywood action film produced, written and directed by the Lagos-based filmmaker Dimeji Adebolawho commenting on the scarcity of science fiction films made in Africa said: “I think science fiction has no race. We all live in this world. We are all affected by technology”.

In 2016 Kati Kati (Kenya/Germany 2016, Dir Mbithi Masya) A Kenyan woman finds herself stuck in Kati Kati (“in-between” in Swahili), a kind of purgatory, in this poetic fantasy that offers a dark reflection on personal atonement at the shadow of Kenya. violent past.

Black Brazilian Sci-Fi (Dir divers) is a program of short science fiction films by Afro-Brazilian filmmakers, showcasing the range of styles associated with imagining and reimagining black futures.

Journeys through Afro-Futurism close with The brunette girl starts (Canada 2019, Dir Sharon Lewis), a post-apocalyptic tale about a young woman who is trapped in a world forced upon her, which is sort of an adaptation of Brown Girl in the Ring is a 1998 novel written by a Jamaican-Canadian writer Nalo Hopkinson.


Space is the place
USA 1974, Dir John Coney, 85 mins
Thu June 2, 6:30 p.m., Cinema 2

This cult classic captures and in many ways establishes the visual semblance of Afro-futurism. The film is an eccentric mix of African iconography and space-age technology, structured around the personality of famed jazz musician and astro traveler Sun Ra.

The starting point of the film, and of the character of Sun Ra, is to transport the figure of the African American, in an indeterminate future, informed by a space race obsessed with the United States of the 60s and the desire for a closer link between African traditions and cultures. In doing so, the stereotypical and racist caricatures and attitudes created by white America during this period are subverted by presenting blackness through this connection between African traditions and technology. Subsequently, creating an aesthetic that is both infused with recognizable African emblems, icons, music and colors, and informed by futuristic space-age technology.

Coney’s becomes something of an origin myth for the character of Sun Ra, placing him directly in 1970s Oakland, California, positioning him as a direct opponent of the white-led capitalist status quo and as a leader of change for the local black community. , emphasizing the conscious political and social commentary under which the figure of Sun Ra exists.

Ornette: made in America
USA 1985, Directed by Shirley Clarke, 77 min
Tue 7 June, 6.30 pm, Cinema 2

Shirley Clarke’s portrayal of jazz musician Ornette Coleman draws on her connection to the free-jazz movement and her thoughts on time and space, to create a multi-layered, unconventional film.

Coleman’s soundscapes were discordant, built around opposing forces that threatened conventions and traditional approaches to jazz through a commitment to improvisation that he called “harmolodic.”

His connection to space age technology is evident through albums such as Tomorrow Is the Question!, The Shape of Jazz to Come and Science Fiction, so much so that NASA asked him to record compositions for broadcast in space. From there, Clarke jumps in to explore Coleman’s thoughts on space and its relationship to the cosmos, juxtaposing the musician’s marked space missions with abstract visuals and performance imagery. The combination of Coleman’s music and reflections on society, and Clarke’s impressionistic, freewheeling editing, creates a connection between Coleman’s freeform music and engagements with space-age technology common to the world. ‘Afro Futurism.

Kati, Kati
Kenya/ Germany 2016, Dir Mbithi Masya, 75 min
Sat June 11, 3:30 p.m., Cinema 2

This mystical film by Mbithi Masya travels through time to tell the story of a Kenyan woman stuck in Kati Kati (“in-between” in Swahili), a sort of purgatory, after her death. Produced by renowned German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, Kati, Kati, the film explores notions of the afterlife, a concept that emerged from the director’s grief for a close friend where, while they wake up, Masya states that he “heard someone say my friend had lucky because she had left all the weight of life”. world behind. It got me thinking. And if it’s not true. What if some of that baggage followed us to the other side?

The film focuses on the character of Kaleche as she encounters a series of strange residents at Kati Kati, a lodge she stumbled upon. The residents are brought together by the charismatic Thoma, who offers a degree of camaraderie and friendship to Kaleche and serves as a guide to the mysterious and layered sercets of Kati Kati.

Nigeria 2020, Dir Dimeji Ajibola, 104 min
Tue 14 June, 6.20 pm, Cinema 2

An action-packed dystopian film, out of Nollywood, (the first of its kind to come out of Nigeria), Ratnik Set shortly after World War III, centers on Sarah Bello, a battle-scarred warrior who returns home, only to discover a litany of problems plaguing her family.

Being a sci-fi film set in an apocalyptic era, the film comes with several unique artistic directions that are totally different from Nollywood standards, ensuring that the film has a foothold in the popular tradition of Nigerian commercial cinema, while still also engaging with the visual language of video games and the Hollywood genres of science fiction and action cinema.

Black Brazilian Science/Fiction
Sat., June 18, 3:30 p.m.
Miscellaneous Director

The films in this program address the meaning of blackness in a Brazilian context, using the freedom granted by science fiction to tell stories that deal with social inequalities, the legacies of racial inequality and the politics of identity. black.

The Brazilian filmmakers in this program use their cinema to place the black body at the center of their films, thereby addressing a perceived lack of representation and visibility in popular Brazilian audiovisual culture. The shorts program highlights the thrilling visual language of black science fiction from Brazil and a young generation of emerging filmmakers.

The brunette girl starts
Canada 2019, Directed by Sharon Lewis, 95 min
Thu June 30, 6:20 p.m., Cinema 2

A Canadian science fiction film, imagining a future of continued oppression for the poor, centering on a female protagonist who must resurrect the spirits of the Caribbean to aid in a revolution. Lewis actively constructs an Afro-futuristic fable that follows Ti-Jeanne, who finds herself trapped in an unknown and sinister world, against her will.

Ti-Jeanne, is reluctantly pressed to take a stand, using her priestess powers resurrecting distant Caribbean spirits while trying to survive the possession ritual that killed her mother, if unable, her people. will perish.

The film is a kind of adaptation of Brown Girl in the Ring is a 1998 novel written by Jamaican-Canadian writer Nalo Hopkinson. The novel contains Afro-Caribbean culture with themes of folklore and magical realism, which are transposed into The brunette girl startswhich becomes a prequel to the novel, reimagining the novel’s reflections on seer traditions and obeah, a system of spiritual healing and justice practices developed among West African slaves.

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