“Space Is the Place: Afrofuturism on Film”

“Space Is the Place: Afrofuturism on Film”

April 3, 2015 to April 15, 2015
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Harvey Theater
30 Lafayette Avenue


presents Space Is the Place: Afrofuturism on Film, a kaleidoscopic, horizon-expanding exploration of alternate and imagined Black futures and pasts in science-fiction, genre-bending global cinema, unorthodox documentary, and innovative music videos. Opening the series on Friday, April 3 is Dick Fontaine’s Beat This!: A Hip Hop History (1984)one of the earliest filmed documents of hip-hop culture along with Wild Style and Style WarsFeaturing cameos by DJ and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, early hip-hop group the Cold Crush Brothers, DJ Jazzy Jay, renowned b-boy crew the Dynamic Rockers, and glimpses of DJ Kool Herc’s notorious dance parties, Beat This! is a sci-fi tinged time capsule of the early days of the movement, complete with rhyming narration by Imhotep Gary Byrd. Bambaataa will appear in person following the screening for a Q&A with cultural critic Greg Tate.
The series’ namesake is the only film starring legendary mystic and jazz musician Sun RaSpace Is the Place (1974Apr 9)—”A freaky and far-fetched blend of blaxploitation, sci-fi, and free jazz‖” (Phil GalloVariety). After populating a foreign planet with African American colonists, Sun Ra as cosmic pharaoh travels back to Earth to look for more recruits and is challenged to a card game against the evil overseer to decide the fate of the Black race. Space Is the Place screens with Frances Bodomo’s Afronauts (2014), about a group of Zambian exiles who try to beat America in the space race to the moon. Other sci-fi narratives include John Sayles’ satire of the immigrant experience, The Brother from Another Planet (Apr 10, 1984), screening with the post-apocalyptic Kenyan short Pumzi (2009); Haile Gerima’s Sankofa (1993April 12), in which an African American model is transported back in time to an antebellum Southern plantation; and Stephen Norrington’s Blade (1998Apr 10), starring Wesley Snipes in his iconic role as half-man, half-vampire. 
Space Is the Place also showcases a number of rarities including Ngozi Onwurah’s dystopian evocation of a near-future Black history, Welcome II the Terrordome (1995Apr 11), which screens with Kibwe Tavares’ Robots of Brixton (2011); Robert Mugge’s Sun Ra doc A Joyful Noise (1980Apr 11), featuring rare archival footage of interviews and live performances; and iconic American independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke’s Ornette: Made in America (1985Apr 11)—an intricately knit series of riffs on free jazz giant Ornette Coleman, one of the greatest living artists 20th-century modernism produced‖ (Amy TaubinArtforum).
On Tuesday, April 14, BAMcinématek presents The Last Angel of History (1997), directed by John Akomfrah of the Black Audio Film Collectivethe subject of a BAM retrospective last year. This sci-fi ciné-essay features interviews with pan-African artists interspersed with a recurring Afrofuturist allegory highlighting their cultural alienation and displacement. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion about the ever-evolving Afrofuturist movement with director Terence Nance, writer and editor at The New Inquiry Derica Shields, and Associate Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem Naima J. Keith, moderated by series curator Ashley Clark

Additional highlights include Nance’s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012Apr 13); Lizzie Borden’s pseudodocumentary Born in Flames (1983Apr 15), which imagines a lesbian-led feminist revolution and projects a dystopian future onto grimy Koch-era New York City; and Cosmic Slop (1994Apr 13), a controversial, three-part HBO special that has drawn comparisons to The Twilight Zone and features George Clinton’s floating head as narrator.

“Space Is the Place: Afrofuturism” — Film Schedule
Friday, April 3, 2015,  7pm*
Beat This!: A Hip Hop History
Beat This!: A Hip Hop-History (1984), 60 min. Director Dick FontaineFilmmaker Dick Fontaine’s hugely entertaining documentary was one of the first examinations of hip-hop culture, just as it entered its golden age. Full of wit and edited with style, Beat This features out-there sci-fi imagery and reams of terrific archival material, including live performances by Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc and incredible footage from Herc’s original dance parties. DigiBeta.
Q&A with Afrika Bambaataa, moderated by Greg Tate
Thursday, April 9, 2015, 7pm
Space Is the Place & Afronauts
Space Is the Place (1974), 35mm, 85 min. Directed by John Coney. CastSun Ra, Barbara Deloney, Raymond JohnsonThe movie version of Sun Ra’s concept album. Features the legendary avant-garde jazz musician and mystic in his only fictional film appearance. Rejecting a linear plot in favor of a mélange of interplanetary travel, sharp social commentary, goofy pseudo-Blaxploitation stylistics, and thrilling concert performance, this kaleidoscopic, brilliantly eccentric adventure is a wild ride. .  
Afronauts (2014) 14min Directed by Frances Bodomo. Cast: Diandra Forrest, Yolonda Ross, Hoji Fortuna
This beguiling monochrome short tracks the Zambia Space Academy’s attempts to beat America to the moon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015, 9:15pm
A Joyful Noise
A Joyful Noise (1980), 16mm, 60 min., Directed by Robert Mugge. A documentary presenting jazz legend and mystic Sun Ra as philosopher and inspired leader of his most famous band, the Intergalactic Arkestra. Testimonials from colleagues are intercut with concert footage in Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as sessions with Ra himself, filmed in the Egyptian room of a museum, where he looks intently into the camera as he expands on his Afrocentrist worldview.

Friday, April 10, 2015, 2pm
The Brother from Another Planet

Friday, April 10, 2015, 7pm
The Brother from Another Planet & Pumzi

The Brother from Another PlanetSayles’ witty urban spin on the runaway slave narrative, a mute extraterrestrial (Joe Morton crash-lands in Harlem after a spaceship accident and finds himself on the run from two mysterious white hunters. Stylishly shot by Spike Lee collaborator Ernest Dickerson—A thought-provoking spin on the use of the black image in science fiction. (1984), 35mm, 108min. Directed by John Sayles. CastJoe Morton, Daryl Edwards, Rosanna Carter

Pumzi (2009), Digital, 21min Directed by Wanuri Kahiu. Cast: Chantelle Burger, Freddy Djanabia, Anton David JefthaKenya’s first sci-fi film shows a post-apocalyptic world in which water has almost run out.

Friday, April 10, 2015, 4:15pm & 9:45pm
Blade (1998), 35mm, 120 min. Directed by Stephen Norrington. CastWesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris KristoffersonWesley Snipes delivers one of his most iconic roles as an ice-cool half-vampire, half-mortal who becomes a protector of the mortal race by slaying evil vampires in increasingly spectacular fashion. This gripping sci-fi-horror hybrid launched a franchise, but the original remains the most entertaining.



Saturday, April 11, 2015, 2pm, 4:30pm, 7pm
Ornette: Made in America

Ornette: Made in America (1985), 35mm, 85 min. Directed by Shirley Clarke.  The great experimental filmmaker has painted this portrait of avant-garde jazz pioneer Ornette Colemanwho was once asked by NASA to compose music to coincide with their space program. Clarke blends thrilling performance excerpts, futuristic music videos, and imaginative reenactments of Coleman’s childhood, resulting in an invigorating document of a unique artist and original thinker.


Saturday, April 11, 2015, 9:30pm
Welcome II the Terrordome & Robots of Brixton

Welcome II the Terrordome (1995), 35mm, 90 min. Directed by Ngozi Onwurah. CastSuzette Llewellyn, Saffron Burrows, Felix JosephThe first narrative feature ever directed by a Black British woman is this ferocious, ambitious, dystopian nightmare influenced by African mythology, the films of Spike Lee, and the music of Public Enemy. A near-future inner-city ghetto implodes under the pressure of racial tensions, poverty, and police brutality. 
Screens with Robots of Brixton Directed by Kibwe Tavares.

Sunday, April 12, 2015, 5:00 & 8pm

Sankofa (1993), Digital, 124 min. Directed by Haile Gerima. CastKofi Ghanaba, Oyafunmike Ogunlano, Alexandra DuahHaile Gerima’s blistering parable tells the story of a self-absorbed African-American fashion model who, while on a photo shoot in Ghana, is spiritually transported to a plantation in the antebellum South. Here, she experiences the horrors of slaveryand ultimately, the redemptive power of community and rebellion. Sankofa is a beautiful and disturbing Afrocentric interrogation of the past through a contemporary lens.

Monday, April 13, 2015, 5:15pm, 9:15pm
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012), DCP, 84 min Directed by Terence Nance. With Alisa Becher, Jc Cain, Dexter JonesThis remarkable debut feature charts the relationship between director-star Nance and a beautiful young woman as it teeters on the line between romantic and platonic. Weaving an alluring tapestry of live action, home video, and Afrofuturistic animation, Nance boldly explores the fantasies, memories, and emotions that race through his mind during a singular moment in time.

Monday, April 13, 2015, 7:15pm
Cosmic Slop

Cosmic Slop (1994),DCP, 83 min. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Warrington Hudlin, Kevin Rodney Sullivan. CastRobert Guillaume, Jorge AmeerLarry Anderson, Noëlle BalfourWith frequent nods to The Twilight Zone, this psychedelic trilogy takes its title from the 1973 album by Afrofuturist pioneers Funkadelic and features the recurring presence of George Clinton’s floating head as narrator. This film has stoked controversy for its provocative depictions of class and racial tensions when it aired on HBO in 1994.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 7:30pm**
The Last Angel of History
The Last Angel of History (1997), DCP, 45 min. Directed by John Akomfrah
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. Interviews with esteemed musicians, writers, and cultural critics are interwoven with the fictional story of the—data thief— who must travel through time and space in search of the code that holds the key to his future. 
Q&A with Afrika Bambaataa moderated by Greg Tate
Followed by a panel discussion

Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 7:30pm
Born in Flames
Born in Flames (1983), 16mm, 80min. Directed by Lizzie Borden. CastHoney, Adele Bertei, Jean SatterfieldThis dizzying feminist sci-fi doc takes place in an imaginary New York a decade after a socialist revolution has rendered all men equal, leaving womenorganized by two rival pirate radio stationsto pick up the battle. Borden tackles issues of class, racism, and sexism with confidence and post-punk swagger.  



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