I’m a simple cinephile, if Criterion put’s their name behind something I’m likely going to give it a shot. So today I decided to dive headfirst into the Afrofuturism collection on the Criterion Channel. With no prior knowledge of any of the films, I let my friend who graciously agreed to watch with me to pick what sounded good based on title and thumbnail. We ended up watching…
Welcome II the Terrordome (1995, Dir. Ngozi Onwurah)
This movie was a hell of a ride. The film was filled to the brim with odd decision after odd decision, yet it all worked as a whole. The awkward instances of voiceover shouldn’t work, but they do. The whiplash inducing tonal shifts from dystopian schlock to exploitative violence shouldn’t work, but they do. I think what holds the film together, and the reason it feels especially pertinent despite its age is its message. The film is unabashedly a BLM work despite being created 18 years before movement gained that name, and cumulates with an impassioned monologue spoken over a memorial for a young Black child killed because he was Black.
To compliment this feature, I also watched a few shorts from the same collection.
The Golden Chain (2016, Dir. Adebukola Dodunrin and Ezra Claytan Daniels)
A completely surreal bit of animation. The science fiction is dense while still being rooted in mythology. The short is striking in its unique use of the animated medium mixing techniques. I’m not all together sure that got the deeper meaning of the film, but it was a beautiful set of images to let wash over me.
T (2019, Dir. Keisha Rae Witherspoon)
This 14-minute short deeply resonated with me. An exploration of grief through art in honor of those who would appreciate it. T shows an extremely mature understanding of filmmaking from the relative newcomer. The faux documentary style resonates as emotionally highlighted by Koko Zauditu-Selassie as Dimples. This grief is perfectly contrasted with love and joy exhibited by the pieces of art that sick in memory long after the run time.
1968 < 2018 > 2068 (2018, Dir. Keisha Rae Witherspoon)
After how much I loved T, I decided to watch the only other film Keisha Rae Witherspoon, the short 1968 < 2018 > 2068. And uh, I didn’t get it. It felt a little too much like a student film, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of my love for her follow-up.