Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism

17 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...

  • Welcome II the Terrordome

    Episode 4

    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...

  • Milford Graves Full Mantis

    Episode 5

    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...

  • Neptune Frost

    Episode 6

    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

    Episode 7

    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 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...

  • Planet X

    Episode 9

    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.

  • Dark Matters

    Episode 10

    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 11

    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.

  • Public Service Announcement

    Episode 12

    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.

  • Relic 0

    Episode 13

    Directed by Larry Achiampong • 2017 • United Kingdom

    The prelude to Larry Achiampong’s RELIC series moves between African and Western vistas as it ruminates on time, history, and colonialism.

  • Relic 1

    Episode 14

    Directed by Larry Achiampong • 2017 • United Kingdom

    A Relic Traveller apparates in sites across a desolate United Kingdom, uncovering fragments of audible data that present clue-like testimonies to a forgotten empire.

  • Relic 2

    Episode 15

    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.

  • Relic 3

    Episode 16

    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.

  • The Burial of Kojo

    Episode 17

    Directed by Blitz Bazawule • 2018 • Ghana, United States
    Starring Ama K. Abebrese, Joe Addo, Henry Adofo

    A profusion of dazzling, magical-realist images grace the visually and emotionally stunning debut feature from musician turned filmmaker Blitz Bazawule. Through the eyes of Esi (Cynthia Dankw...