Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism

30 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...

  • Born in Flames

    Episode 3

    Directed by Lizzie Borden • 1983 • United States
    Starring Honey, Adele Bertei, Jean Satterfield

    The film that rocked the foundations of the 1980s underground, this postpunk provocation is a DIY fantasia of female rebellion set in America ten years after a social-democratic cultural revolution. W...

  • The Brother from Another Planet

    Episode 4

    Directed by John Sayles • 1984 • United States
    Starring Joe Morton, Daryl Edwards, Steve James

    In John Sayles’s witty urban spin on the runaway-slave narrative, a mute extraterrestrial (Joe Morton, in a remarkably expressive performance) crash-lands in Harlem after a spaceship accident and finds...

  • Ornette: Made in America

    Episode 5

    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...

  • Yeelen

    Episode 6

    Directed by Souleymane Cissé • 1987 • Mali
    Starring Issiaka Kane, Aoua Sangare

    This adaptation of an ancient oral legend from Mali is one the most acclaimed and widely seen African films ever made. An Oedipal story infused with magic, YEELEN is as visually stunning as anything from Hollywood. Se...

  • Welcome II the Terrordome

    Episode 7

    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 Last Angel of History

    Episode 8

    Directed by John Akomfrah • 1996 • United Kingdom

    John Akomfrah, cofounder of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, crafted this experimental blend of sci-fi parable and essay film, which also serves as an essential primer on the aesthetics and dynamics of contemporary Afrofuturism. Inter...

  • The Changing Same

    Episode 9

    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.

  • Les saignantes

    Episode 10

    Directed by Jean-Pierre Bekolo • 2005 • Cameroon
    Starring Adèle Ado, Dorylia Calmel, Emile Abossolo M'bo

    Cameroonian auteur Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s outré sci-fi satire is a blazingly Afrofeminist vision in which a pair of supernatural lesbian call girls use their powers to smash a futuristic Camero...

  • Dark Matters

    Episode 11

    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 12

    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 13

    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 14

    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 15

    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.

  • An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

    Episode 16

    Directed by Terence Nance • 2012 • United States
    Starring Terence Nance, Namik Minter, Chanelle Aponte Pearson

    Terence Nance announced his arrival as one of the most exciting voices in American independent cinema with his bracingly original, endlessly inventive debut feature. With arresting insi...

  • Jonah
    18:29
    Episode 17

    Jonah

    Episode 17

    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 18

    Touch

    Episode 18

    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 19

    Twaaga

    Episode 19

    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 20

    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.

  • White Out, Black In

    Episode 21

    Directed by Adirley Queirós • 2014 • Brazil

    A formally inventive sci-fi voyage through the past, present, and future of racial struggle in Brazil, WHITE OUT, BLACK IN interweaves the stories of two survivors of a 1986 police shooting living in Ceilândia—a historically oppressed Black city just o...

  • Crumbs

    Episode 22

    Directed by Miguel Llansó • 2015 • Spain, Ethiopia
    Starring Daniel Tadesse

    In a dazzlingly imaginative vision of a postapocalyptic Ethiopia, a hapless scavenger finds himself launched on a surreal adventure involving a mysterious UFO, witches, Santa Claus, Nazi knights, and more. Conjuring a loo...

  • You and I and You

    Episode 23

    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 24

    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.