Black Superheroes + Black Leadership + The Responsibility of Building Societies in World-Changing Times
Last week I had the privilege to see three films — of course, Black Panther, Canadian filmmaker Sharon Lewis’ Brown Girl Begins inspired by Nalo Hopkinson’s book, Brown Girl in the Ring, and Martinique-based filmmaker Khris Burton’s S0.CI3.TY.
I met Janluk Stanislas at a recent Caribbeing event and found out about his 2005 Caribbean futuristic short film, Trafik d’Info. As someone of Afro-Caribbean descent, I am always looking for speculative works from the Caribbean and so this excited me. Trafik d’Info, known as the first science fiction film from the Caribbean, centers on a 20th century organization of rebels who are illegally trading information despite censorship from authorities. One of the agents of the organization, Jouwa, hunted the militia, is attempting to save important information so that people in his generation and future generations can receive it. Later in the film we see the effects of the efforts of this organization in the future. Below is my interview with Stanislas about the film:
1) Tell us a little about your background and how it influenced you to be a filmmaker.
I’m French Caribbean, born on the island of Guadeloupe. I’m part of that generation that grew up with the values that our parents and grandparents instilled, but also grew up with the beginning of advanced technology. My parents had a TV when I was one, and I remember going to the movies with my father later on every weekend. My mother influenced both my brother and I to play the piano and always found a way to document the family. I guess that the essence of my art form today was always surrounding me since my young age.
Some of the best stories are the ones that connect back to original tales and cultural rituals that are part of the human journey. Today, sometimes the universal meanings, archetypes and principles behind our modern stories are hidden because we are disconnected from those ancient tales and rituals. Think of, for example, Little Red Riding Hood, which can be interpreted as an initiation fairytale with the grandmother as the grand wise mother or crone figure and the wolf as an Anubis-like figure leading her onto a path of rebirth of herself.
Eliciana Nascimento captures that universal story of returning to one’s roots and the ancient continuing to live in the new in her Afro-Brazilian and Yoruba Orisha-inspired film, The Summer of Gods. Opening with a boat ride, a young girl, Lili, is traveling with her mother and brothers to visit her grandmother and right from the start, we see she has the ability to hear and see spirits around her. Lucumi priestess and professor of afrofuturism, Koko Zauditu-Selassie, said during the panel that this establishing scene of the family going across the water symbolizes fluidity of generational memory and listening to the past, and that despite being abducted and forced across the water during the transatlantic slave trade, it did not change us completely. Water is a theme throughout the film, including a honoring ritual at the waterfall in Brazil in the beginning of the film and the two water-related Orisha – Yemanja (whose is along with her Brazilian festival a main inspiration for the film) and Oshun (the Orisha of the life-giving rivers). The water represents for this young girl a return to her ancestral roots and traditions, but also a fertile creative place where her new life can begin.
Nappy Nation Media presents Ase, an African historical fantasy short film and TV series concept. Shot on location in Nigeria, it is “set in the ancient West African kingdom of Oyo, and is about three ordinary teens on a seemingly ordinary day who have a not-so-ordinary supernatural encounter with a dark and evil spirit known as Elemoso.
This short film is a brief introduction to the concept for a one-hour epic television series we are developing based on the same setting and primary characters. Artists from all over Nigeria and America united to bring this story to life, in celebration of the beauty, complexity, and history of African people.”
Barbados Cultural Fact of the Day: Besides the Landship masquerade, there are several traditional Barbados costumed characters who are seen during Crop Over festival, including Mother Sally (“Muddah Sally”), The Donkey Man, The Shaggy Bear and The Stilt Man. Traditionally performed by a male who wore a mask to hide his identity, Mother Sally was a figure meant to represent fertility with her exaggerated breasts and bottom. The masquerade character has similarities to Gelede Masquerade of Yoruba in South Western Nigeria and in Ghana among the Ga ethnic peoples. Today, the character is played by women too and their performances are filled with comedy and rhythmic pelvic dances. The costume sometimes comes across as problematic with the stereotypical look and especially with men dressing as the character in the past, but reflects Barbados particular cultural history. I will discuss the other costume characters in following posts.
*Narratively’s The Imaginarium of Black Cinema: “… the Museum of African American Cinema (MoAAC) is actually a modest four-room office space on the ninth floor of Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.
MoAAC, formed in 2001 as a nonprofit organization, is the brainchild of Gregory Javan Mills, Ernest N. Steele and twenty other founding members. Mills, its current C.E.O. & president, remembers seeing an episode of “Tony Brown’s Journal” on PBS in the mid-1980s devoted to early black cinema. He and the others spent the next decade and a half researching the history of black cinema in the United States. The idea to create a museum didn’t materialize until the late ’90s. Mills is on a mission to secure funds to display the vast collection, evidence of the largely untold history of black cinema, at a permanent establishment.”
We all know that humans use technology as a tool for our own advancement, but what about when technology becomes a trap to our own destruction? How do we as humans rationalize it all when technology does not help but is controlling us and leading us to chaos?
This is one of the themes explored in Kevin Jarvis’ satirical documentary-styled apocalyptic film. A Dangerous Cure. The film essentially consists of several interviews about Savia Jones, a media personality who was making a film about a zombie virus epidemic at first for fame, but then gets in too deep. As is already known, apocalyptic films, shows and books are a major part of our current culture, but this one gives a slightly different feel with its old school documentary style and closer-to-reality plot. It feels as if the film could happen right now, but also, with its timeless feel, seems as if it already happened.
Here is the Web premiere of the short filmDanger Word, directed by Luchina Fisher and starring Frankie Faison and Saoirse Scott. The film, which is based on Devil’s Wake from Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, follows a 13-year-old girl and her grandfather in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. If you enjoy zombie shows and films, like The Walking Dead and The Night of the Living Dead, this is a nice addition, mainly because 1) the lead characters are not the stereotypical ones — a young black girl and an older black man, 2) the zombies develop a trait that gives a an interesting twist to how would living humans be able to differentiate between themselves and the dead and also gives a slight remnant of humanity to the zombies, 3) the film has good story and character development that I see potential in it becoming a larger film, and 4) did I mention the black girl, who is the hero of the story, although it does end tragically, and I wonder what happens next for her character.
The collective, HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican‘s behind-the-scenes video of their film, Good Stock on the Dimension Floor: An Opera, which is “reimagining the traditional opera to pose a central question: “What happens to the black body when it is haunted by a ‘blackness’ outside of it?” The spoken, chanted, sung, and screamed libretto explores the consequences of centuries of global racial strife that are thrust upon on those born of African descent.” The film will be showing at the Whitney Museum of Art from May 14th-25th.