Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism

21 Episodes

Coined in 1994 by critic Mark Dery, the term “Afrofuturism” has become an essential framework for art about imagined and alternative Black experiences. As the author Ytasha Womack writes, “Afrofuturism combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western beliefs.” Afrofuturist ideas have found fertile ground in film, and this expansive series takes viewers on an international, intergalactic journey that stretches back long before the term existed, and far into the future. Spanning animation, documentary, and genre spectacle, these exuberant visions of Black creativity, resistance, and freedom zigzag across the African diaspora from New York to Brasilia to Kinshasa to worlds unknown. Curated by Ashley Clark, the series draws together films from Space is the Place: Afrofuturism on Film, which took place at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2015; a sequel planned for 2020 that was canceled due to the pandemic; and a selection of all-new titles, many of them available for streaming for the first time.

Afrofuturism
  • Introducing Afrofuturism

    Episode 1

    This introduction by Criterion curatorial director Ashley Clark was recorded in 2020.

  • Space Is the Place

    Episode 2

    Directed by John Coney • 1974 • United States
    Starring Sun Ra, Barbara Deloney, Raymond Johnson

    Avant-jazz mystic Sun Ra brought his pioneering Afrofuturist vision to the screen with this film version of his concept album. It’s a wild, kaleidoscopic whirl of science fiction, sharp social comment...

  • Ornette: Made in America

    Episode 3

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1985 • United States
    Starring Ornette Coleman

    This freewheeling documentary captures Ornette Coleman’s evolution over three decades. Documentary footage, dramatic scenes, and some of the first music-video-style segments ever made chronicle his boyhood in segregated T...

  • Odds and Ends

    Episode 4

    Directed by Michelle Parkerson • 1993 • United States

    In the year 2096, Black women warriors wage a battle against racial and gender annihilation. In this devastated universe, a fable unfolds on the interplanetary frontlines. Lieutenant Loz Wayard, a courageous young Amazon, learns the price of ...

  • Welcome II the Terrordome

    Episode 5

    Directed by Ngozi Onwurah • 1995 • United Kingdom
    Starring Suzette Llewellyn, Saffron Burrows, Felix Joseph

    Ngozi Onwurah’s radically ahead-of-its-time Afrofuturist vision WELCOME II THE TERRORDOME made history as the first theatrically distributed British feature directed by a Black woman. Neve...

  • The Changing Same

    Episode 6

    Directed by Cauleen Smith • 2001 • United States

    In this experimental hybrid between science fiction and noir, Cauleen Smith explores Black alienation and outsiderhood via the story of two aliens stationed on Earth searching for kinship and a sense of purpose.

  • Dark Matters

    Episode 7

    Directed by Monique Walton • 2010 • United States
    Starring Sade Jones

    A woman obsessed with extraterrestrials and UFO sightings begins to question her own ethnic, cultural, and planetary origins.

  • The Becoming Box

    Episode 8

    Directed by Monique Walton • 2011 • United States

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a mysterious box appears in the backyard of three siblings—a portal that may offer an escape from their surroundings.

  • Robots of Brixton

    Episode 9

    Directed by Kibwe Tavares • 2011 • United Kingdom

    Tensions erupt among a group of young robots attempting to survive the daily grind.

  • Hasaki Ya Suda

    Episode 10

    Directed by Cédric Ido • 2011 • France
    Starring Jacky Ido, Cédric Ido, Min Man Ma

    In an all-too-plausible future ravaged by climate change, rival clans must fight for the remaining natural resources in this striking Burkinabé blend of samurai adventure, spaghetti western, and doomsday science-fi...

  • Native Sun

    Episode 11

    Directed by Terence Nance and Blitz Bazawule • 2011 • United States
    Starring Edward Dankwa, Marcus Quarshie, Helena Yaboah

    A young boy embarks on a journey through Accra, Ghana, to find his estranged father in this fable-like short made to accompany an album by hip-hop artist Blitz the Ambassador.

  • Jonah
    18:29
    Episode 12

    Jonah

    Episode 12

    Directed by Kibwe Tavares • 2013 • United Kingdom, Tanzania

    Mbwana and his best friend Juma are two young men with big dreams. These dreams become reality when they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small town blossoms into a tourist hot spot as a result. But for Mbwana...

  • Touch
    13:58
    Episode 13

    Touch

    Episode 13

    Directed by Shola Amoo • 2013 • United Kingdom
    Starring Tanya Fear, Alexis Rodney, Nina Edwards

    An android’s experience of love causes her to rebel against her programming.

  • Twaaga
    31:44
    Episode 14

    Twaaga

    Episode 14

    Directed by Cédric Ido • 2013 • France, Burkina Faso
    Starring Sabourou Bamogo, Harouna Ouedraogo, Sidiki Diarra

    Burkina Faso in 1985 is a country in the throes of revolution. Manu, a young boy who loves comics, tags along with his big brother, Albert. When Albert decides to undergo a magic ritua...

  • Afronauts

    Episode 15

    Directed by Nuotama Bodomo • 2014 • United States
    Starring Diandra Forrest, Yolonda Ross, Hoji Fortuna

    This beguiling monochrome short tracks the Zambia Space Academy’s attempts to beat America to the moon.

  • You and I and You

    Episode 16

    Directed by Terence Nance • 2015 • United States

    This hypnotically surreal dance film is set to a single by the psychedelic rock band the Dig.

  • The Golden Chain

    Episode 17

    Directed by Adebukola Bodunrin and Ezra Claytan Daniels • 2016 • United States

    Experimental cinema meets the aesthetics of the graphic novel in this surreal outer-space odyssey to the edge of consciousness and the cosmos.

  • 1968 < 2018 > 2068

    Episode 18

    Directed by Keisha Rae Witherspoon • 2018 • United States

    Drawing on literary excerpts from the book “Black Quantum Futurism: Theory and Practice,” 1968 < 2018 > 2068 is a meditation on cyclical and linear time theory, memory, and trauma.

  • Zombies

    Episode 19

    Directed by Baloji • 2019 • Belgium, The Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Starring Popaul Amisi, Gaelle Kibikonda

    Belgian-Congolese rapper Baloji directs this hallucinatory tour through the streets, hair salons, and underground clubs of Kinshasa.

  • T
    13:50
    Episode 20

    T

    Episode 20

    Directed by Keisha Rae Witherspoon • 2019 • United States
    Starring Koko Zauditu-Selassie, Kherby Jean, Jesus Mitchell

    A film crew follows three grieving participants in Miami’s annual T Ball, where folks assemble to model RIP T-shirts and innovative costumes designed in honor of their dead.

  • I Snuck off the Slave Ship

    Episode 21

    Directed by Lonnie Holley and Cyrus Moussavi • 2019 • United States
    Starring Lonnie Holley, Theotis Taylor

    Visionary folk artist Lonnie Holley choreographs an ecstatic Afrofuturist tone poem to his own music in an assemblage of his encounters with the slave ship “America” and a testament to imag...