On Tuesday, Amazon Studios released the first trailer for Spike Lee’s forthcoming and long discussed film, Chi-Raq. From the visuals, this movie is likely to draw a lot of attention.
It is painfully obvious that Hollywood has a race problem. Hit movie after hit movie features lead characters who are phenotypically White while movies with diverse casts are categorized as “race-themed” movies. Dylan Marron, a self-described “Neo Futurist” and performer, sliced up a few top films which perfectly highlight this point.
By L.G. Parker
Afrofuturism has been described as, “the intersection between black culture, technology, liberation and the imagination, with some mysticism thrown in, too. It can be expressed through film; it can be expressed through art, literature and music. It’s a way of bridging the future and the past and essentially helping to reimagine the experience of people of color.” The termed was coined by Mary Dery in his essay, Black to the Future and encompasses artists from Sun Ra to Janelle Monae. The following films hold true to the Afrofuturist aesthetic.
1. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Director Terence Nance stars in this 2012 film in which he plays the role of a character who was stood up by a beautiful woman and then makes a film about her beauty and his pondering about the nature of feelings and specific moments and shows it to her. Debuted at this 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the highly celebrated film is available online.
Kenyan science-fiction writer and director Wanuri Kahiu’s 2009 short-film film establishes a post-apocalyptic world void of water, thereby absent of life aboveground. Kahiu’s film follows a scientist’s exploration of the germinating seeds beyond Nairobi culture. It was screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival as a part of the New African Cinema program.
3. Robots of Brixton
Brixton has become the home of London’s robot workforce in this film by Kibwe Taveres.
On July 16, 1969, America prepares to launch Apollo 11. Frances Bodomo’s 2014 short film depicts what was happening thousands of miles away, where the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
5. New Siren
Wangechi Mutu’s 2014 short film infuses pornographic imagery, science, and ancient traditions to depict what true beauty, which she defines as being “complicated, like a flame that is both dangerous and interesting.” One of the leading figures in contemporary African art, Mutu’s film responds to and engages with both the policing of female bodies and demonization of Africa.
Described by its creators as a post apocalyptic surreal love story in Ethiopia, the sixty-nine minute film made its world premier at the 2009 International Film Festival in Rotterdam
By Jayy Dodd
It may seem like White kids have had a closed market on teen comedies that combine relatable angst, beautiful love interests, and witty dialogue, but Dope (2015) was just like nah. Director Rick Famuyiwa, of The Wood and Brown Sugar fame, used his upbringing in Inglewood, CA (my hometown, what what 310) to locate this coming of age tale of Malcolm and his friends senior year of college. Dope follows Malcolm, Diggy and Jib, three Black hipsters navigating their suburban LA neighborhood often misrepresented as hopeless. After comically getting linked up with some gangsters, Malcolm and the squad have to, in the words of the prophet Future, move that dope.
However, Dope is more than just another heartfelt, slapstick, teen comedy. The star power on screen aside, the film is unapologetically Black in a time when Blackness and Black kids are under attack. From the aesthetic, to the music, Dope presents Black millennials as possible and nuanced and important. Each character was given depth and development; so little felt cliché. Even the clearly comedic bit parts were clever and well played.
While, Shameik Moore, who plays Malcolm is undoubtedly a star, his best friend, played by Kiersey Clemons, was a true joy to watch. Diggy, the Black masc-presenting lesbian, was never just regulated as one of the boys. Her friend defended her endlessly and supported her clapbacks throughout the film. The film even addressed the respectability politics of many Black churches, as a fruitless effort that Diggy just breezed through.
Like all favs, this film too has be complicated and of course the one white character had to show his ass. During their dope moving scheme, the squad enlists the support of a stoner-hacker played by Workaholics’ Blake Anderson. For whatever reason (whiteness), his character is compelled to say “nigga”. Despite all the other things he offers the squad, he keeps coming back to it, even having a conversation with another white dude in the film about it. Obviously it was comical (Diggy literally whooped him upside the head twice in the movie for it), it’s annoying when Black art has to allow that sort of space. Still, Dope carried on and not even annoying white boys could bring it down.
In the canon of Friday, Don’t Be A Menace, and Boyz in the Hood, Dope is a love letter to Black Los Angeles. The film encapsulates the urgency for Black artists to speak on Black life in our languages and icons. Black kids need to see themselves as inherently worth the space to self-express, they need to claim their worlds as real and relevant. Dope is more than just visibility, it is humor and heart and arguably the next great hood movie.
Jayy Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.
Azealia Banks is set to play the tile character in the RZA directed film, “Coco”. Banks’ character is described as “an aspiring twenty-something rapper who wants a career in hip hop, but is torn by her parents’ dreams that she finish college. She gives in. While in the classroom, she experiences the true calling of the power of the spoken word, which helps her goals as a hip hop artist.”
Jill Scott, Common, Hana Mae Lee, Lucien Laviscount, and Lorraine Toussaint round out the cast.
Photo: Azealia Banks/Facebook
There’s a lot of dope black films to look forward to. The latest in the Kickstarter game is The Last Black Man in San Francisco. The film details the real life consequences of gentrification.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a feature-length narrative film currently in pre-production that is inspired by the real life of Jimmie Fails, a third-generation San Franciscan, who dreams of buying back his old family home in the Fillmore.
But this film isn’t just about tough economic times and changing political landscapes in San Francisco. It’s a story about two inseparable misfits who are searching for home in a city they can no longer call their own.
Photo: The Last Black Man in San Francisco/Kickstarter
“Honeytrap” tells the story of a young girl who sets up her ex-boyfriend to be killed by her current boyfriend his crew. The story is ripped straight from the headlines from a 2008 case. The film premieres in the UK this weekend. Plans for US distribution have not been announced.
“Fried IceCream” is a coming-of-age film that follows friends Sloan and Akeebah during this last semester of college. With so few coming-of-age films that star black women, a movie like this is needed. Check out the trailer below and learn more at the film’s Indiegogo page.
Photo: Fried IceCream still/House of June
The trailer for “What Happened, Miss Simone” is finally here. The film explores the triumphs and tribulations of Nina Simone’s life. The documentary by Liz Garbus is not to be confused with the controversial biopic starring Zoe Saldana. The film will be released on June 26th.
Photo: Nina Simone/Netflix
Dope, the day-in-the-life film we profiled earlier, has finally released its official trailer. Dope follows Malcolm (Shameik Moore) as he becomes entangled in a drug dealer’s ring. The film stars A$AP Rocky, Zoë Kravitz, and Chanel Iman. It drops June 19.
Dope, set in modern-day Inglewood, CA., but full of ’90s nostalgia, is the one film you need to see this summer. The coming of age story follows Malcom (Shameik Moore) and his best friends as he descends into a drug dealer’s ring. The film is directed by Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood and Brown Sugar) and produced by Forest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams and Sean “Diddy” Combs. Dope stars A$AP Rocky, Zoë Kravitz, and Chanel Iman. You can catch the film beginning June 19.
The 1983 United States invasion of the small Caribbean island of Grenada won’t be forgotten if filmmaker Damani Baker has anything to do with it. Baker was nine years-old when his mother moved him and his sister to Grenada during the nation’s revolution. His film, The House on Coco Road, is the story of family, history and revolution.
In 1979 the Grenadian people carry out the first successful revolution in the English speaking Caribbean. Maurice Bishop becomes Prime Minister. The Revolution attracts workers from around the world including my mother, Fannie Haughton. In 1982 Angela Davis, her family, and my mother visit Grenada to witness this miraculous Peoples’ Revolution. In 1983 my mother is offered a position in the Ministry of Education and we leave our home in Oakland and move to Grenada. I’d never seen her happier.
Grenada was briefly our home. In 1983 the United States led a military invasion following the assassination of the young popular Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. We hid under the bed for three days as bombs shook our new paradise, and changed its course forever.
Sixteen years later, in 1999, I returned to Grenada with my mother, and began shooting a documentary film, searching for her story, one that felt not just untold, but unfinished. My mother, and a group of tireless women, had put their lives on the line, daring to build a better type of country, a stronger more resilient home. You may not know their names, but they have changed the world.
You can learn more about the film and support it here.
Photo: Courtesy of Damani Baker