Diary of a Mad Black DJ 206: Before Black Panther II, Watch These 10 Afrofuturism/Sci-Fi Gems!
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
All month, I've been excited about the amount of people celebrating black futures for Black History Month. I'm especially excited about being a part of the Apollo Live Wire: Black Notes Femme Futures on TWOSDAY (2.22.22); where I get to chat with the acclaimed musician Frae-Frae: Daughter of Drexciya about afrofuturism and the impact of black women as real life superheroes. Click HERE TO RSVP for this free virtual event.
But speaking of superheroes, another hot topic this month has been the speculation around Black Panther II. I've already read Nnedi Okorafor's Shuri, so I have my thoughts about where the sequel can go, but regardless of what they decide, we can all agree that it won't be the same without our beloved hero (RIP).
While we all wait patiently for the brilliance of Ryan Coogler, here are 10 afrofuturism gems to hold you over until November 2022!
Brother Future (1991)
T.J. is a streetwise teenager who thinks only of himself. While running from the police, he is hit by a car and wakes up as a slave on an 1820s plantation. Only by learning to put others' needs before his own can he get back home. - Amazon
Imagine Kindred, but instead of Dana's wisdom and swag, the protagonist is a kid who hasn't paid enough attention in social studies class to offer any recourse during his time travel. Lol. Honestly, it's a pretty good "90's film".
Brown Girl Begins (2018)
It's 2049 and a drug lord owns the streets of The Burn. Young Ti-Jeanne must choose between her fear of dying like her mother, or harnessing the power of the Caribbean spirits to save her people.- Amazon
Caribbean Black folx in Toronto and Papa Legba makes a stop, before making his way to the Coven. Yes, please sign me up!
Solos is a seven-part anthology series that explores the strange, beautiful, heart-breaking, hilarious, wondrous truths of what it means to be human. Performed by eight of the finest actors of our time, this anthology series spans our present and future and illuminates that even during our most isolated moments we are all connected through the human experience. - Amazon
Each sequence features one or two actors in a not so distant future; but the conflict is plenty!
Outside the Wire (2021)
In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired up with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack.-Netflix
Y'all know I love Anthony Mackie- and him as cyborg is perfection- even if he is the villain (or is he)?
Dirty Computer (2018)
An Android, Jane 57821, attempts to break free from the constraints of a totalitarian society that forcibly makes Jane comply with its homophobic beliefs. - IMDb
Rolling Stone, called it a masterpiece. I 100% agree, I've seen this musical at least three times and each viewing brings about a new discover to the genius of JayBae Monáe's.
Random Acts of Flyness (2018)
Late-night series from artist Terence Nance featuring a mix of vérité documentary, musical performances, surrealist melodrama and humorous animation as a stream-of-consciousness response to the contemporary American mediascape. -IBDb
Terence Nance seamlessly weaves together afro-surrealism, humor, intersectional representation and social commentary.
Lovecraft Country (2020)
A young African-American travels across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father. - IMDb
Of all the selections on the list, I'd consider Lovecraft a perfect blend of every sub-genre of afrofuturism: black sci-fi, visionary fiction, black dystopian folklore and afro-surrealism. I'm still sad that there is only one season. (But you can always read the book!)
When I Get Home (2019)
WHEN I GET HOME finds multidisciplinary artist Solange Knowles’s deeply introspective vision of a spiritual expedition reckoning with the question “Where is home?” Accompanying her acclaimed 2019 album of the same name, the film taps imagery of her hometown’s (Houston, TX) culture with flights of surrealism spotlighting Black cowboys, space, futurist worlds, and ritualistic movements that characterize evolution as a recurring presence. Solange explores concepts of origin, fear, safety, and reclamation through the power of ancestral roots and the creation of one’s own kaleidoscopic universe. - The Criterion Channel
Solange's film When I Get Home is a slice of perfection. Every frame holds a story. When this film was first released, I watched it at least once a week...Solange's brilliance effortlessly combines an homage to her past with her vision of the future.
Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. - IMDb
I've watched this movie twice and I am still figuring out parts of the plot. John David Washington clearly uses his athleticism (as a former football player) to lean into this action packed film. His portrayal of the character, "the Protagonist" is as close to a black 007 as we have gotten, thus far. TENET is more than a palindrome...but what that is, I'm not sure- time travel? time bending? quantum duplicating? You watch it, and tell me.
Space is the Place (1974)
With Black Power on the rise, Ra disembarks and proclaims himself "the alter-destiny." He holds a myth-vs.-reality rap session with black inner-city youth at a rec center, threatening "to chain you up and take you with me, like they did you in Africa," if they resist his plea to go to outer space. He duels at cards with The Overseer, a satanic overlord, with the fate of the black race at stake. -IMDb
The 70's were arguably a time when "afrofuturism" actually began to spread her wings into art, film and music. Long before the term was coined by Mark Dery, we had Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind and Fire, LaBelle, Grace Jones and of course Ra- and if we look back further, afrofuturism was consistently being created via social justice and renaissance movements in Harlem, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and all across the deep south. Space is on everyone's "afrofuturism list", but I'm including it here as a bookmark and not a beginning.
Kindred- (TBD coming soon)
FX announced that the pilot based on Octavia Butler’s 1979 science fiction novel “Kindred” has cast Micah Stock, Ryan Kwanten, Gayle Rankin, Austin Smith, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy and David Alexander Kaplan as series regulars. Picked up as a pilot in March 2021, the eight-episode sci-fi show centers on Dana (newcomer Mallori Johnson), a young Black woman and aspiring writer who has uprooted her life of familial obligation and relocated to Los Angeles, ready to claim a future that, for once, feels all her own.
But, before she can get settled into her new home, she finds herself being violently pulled back and forth in time to a nineteenth-century plantation with which she and her family are surprisingly and intimately linked. “Zola” director and co-writer Janicza Bravo will direct the “Kindred” pilot, which was written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Watchmen, An Octoroon) -Variety and
Read the book first. With that said, I have a lot of faith in FX and Bravo. I'm also happy that the book will be interpreted as a TV show and not a film. Watch party, anyone?
Black Mirror (season 5, episode 1)- Striking Vipers (2019)
Twilight Zone (season 1, episode 27)- The Big Tall Wish(1960)
and...if you want to chat about real life superheroes, and real black folx as it relates to afro futures, be sure to tune into Black Notes/Femme Futures next Tuesday as I get to discuss the impact of Black Women on social justice movements with Frae-Frae: Daughter of Drexciya.
Pre-order the soundtrack from Bandcamp.
And if you're still wanting more, here are a few more titles from Okayplayer and Wiki. Happy travels "faylien" friends.