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.
This introduction by Criterion curatorial director Ashley Clark was recorded in 2020.
Space Is the Place
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
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...
Welcome II the Terrordome
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 Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry
Directed by Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough • 2008 • United States
Starring Lee “Scratch” Perry, Peter Tosh, Benicio Del Toro
Visionary record producer and dub innovator Lee “Scratch” Perry—who defined the sound of reggae through his pioneering work with artists like Bob Marley and the Wailers...
Milford Graves Full Mantis
Directed by Jake Meginsky with Neil Young • 2018 • United States
Starring Milford Graves
This portrait of renowned percussionist and founding pioneer of avant-garde jazz Milford Graves finds him exploring his kaleidoscopic creativity and relentless curiosity. The film draws the viewer through th...
Directed by Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman • 2021 • United States, Rwanda
Starring Cheryl Isheja, Bertrand Ninteretse, Eliane Umuhire
Codirected by Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, this visually wondrous sci-fi punk musical takes place in the hilltops of Burundi, where a group of escaped colt...
Odds and Ends
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 ...
The Changing Same
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.
Directed by Ulysses Jenkins • 2006 • United States
Ulysses Jenkins looks at the Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans through the lens of the Planet X doomsday myth and a proclamation of coming disaster to African Americans issued by avant-garde jazz prophet Sun Ra.
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
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.
Hasaki Ya Suda
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...
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.
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...
Public Service Announcement
Directed by Athi-Patra Ruga • 2014 • South Africa
A stunning cosmic kaleidoscope of fluorescent, pixelated nature imagery is set to a dryly satirical lesson on the totalitarian, matriarchal political structure of the fictional republic of Azania.
You and I and You
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
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.
Directed by Larry Achiampong • 2017 • United Kingdom
The third RELIC film in what is currently a quadrilogy considers the rise of nationalism in the global West and imagines a future in which a united Africa ascends to prosperity, harmony, and independence.
Directed by Larry Achiampong • 2017 • United Kingdom
Detailing the struggles of a migrant worker trying to make a life in a hostile, alien environment, RELIC 3 sets aural tales of sexual manipulation, violence, and exploitation to striking images of landscapes across the UK.
1968 < 2018 > 2068
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.