Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Neptune Frost (USA/Rwanda: Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, 2021)

"Multi-hyphenate, multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams brings his unique dynamism to this Afrofuturist vision, a sci-fi punk musical that’s a visually wondrous amalgamation of themes, ideas, and songs that Williams has explored in his work, notably his 2016 album MartyrLoserKing. Co-directed with the Rwandan-born artist and cinematographer Anisia Uzeyman, the film takes place in the hilltops of Burundi, where a group of escaped coltan miners form an anti-colonialist computer hacker collective. From their camp in an otherworldly e-waste dump, they attempt a takeover of the authoritarian regime exploiting the region's natural resources – and its people. When an intersex runaway and an escaped coltan miner find each other through cosmic forces, their connection sparks glitches within the greater divine circuitry. Set between states of being – past and present, dream and waking life, colonized and free, male and female, memory and prescience – Neptune Frost is an invigorating and empowering direct download to the cerebral cortex and a call to reclaim technology for progressive political ends."

Neptune Frost (USA/Rwanda: Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, 2021: 110 mins)

Bruce, Delan. "Afrofuturism: From the Past to the Living Present." UCLA Magazine (September 3, 2020)

Daniels, Robert. "Neptune Frost." Roger Ebert (June 3, 2022)

Eggert, Brian. "Neptune Frost." Deep Focus Review (June 12, 2022) ["Neptune Frost fashions an identity for itself, jettisoning conventional methods and narrative structures of Western filmmaking. An Afrofuturist rallying cry crafted by two multi-hyphenated artists, the film uses Saul Williams’ fifth album MartyrLoserKing as a launchpad, propelling the viewer into the cosmos with the help of Rwandan actor-playwright Anisia Uzeyman. Songs from the album are reworked and revisited, adapted into Kinyarwanda and Kirundi by the cast, and performed in new environments and contexts—specifically, the cyber-haven Digitaria. Placing a label on the result is difficult and decidedly against the point. Instead, co-directors Williams and Uzeyman explore the destructive forces of capitalism and colonialism through a direct discourse with the viewer, using elements of musicals, political statements, and rebellion from inside a digital dreamscape. Early on, an intersex hacker named Neptune (Elvis Ngabo, then later Cheryl Isheja) looks right into the camera, confronting their audience with the reality of our participation in the systems that exploit African people and resources, and calls out to anyone across the globe who doesn’t fit into a socially constructed box."]

Uzeyman, Anisia and Saul Williams. "Neptune Frost: Cinema Intro and Q & A at TIFF." TIFF Originals (Posted on Youtube: September 15, 2021) ["Set in past-, future- and present-day Rwanda, in the afterlife of the nation’s civil war, this transdimensional sci-fi musical, created, written, and composed by Saul Williams and co-directed with Rwandan actor Anisia Uzeyman (TIFF 2016 selection Ayiti Mon Amour) defies easy decipherability. Instead, it offers an Afro-sonic portal into existence, to quote Sun Ra, “on the other side of time.” An adventure into anti-narrative as Black diasporic treatise, NEPTUNE FROST — executive produced by Ottawa-based Cayuga and Mohawk group The Halluci Nation (f.k.a. A Tribe Called Red) — tells of a generation of dreamers escaping the psycho-social wreckage of colonization, genocide, and the residual brutalities of global extractive industries. Together and apart, these dreamers journey over lush green landscapes into digital worlds, unaware of the destination they are being led to, sounding the beat of anti-colonial struggle to connect rhythms of global uprising. Against the world’s resource-rich, who mine Africa’s land and peoples to power global currency, Rwanda’s university students are in open revolt, demanding “No Authority!” Neptune (played by both Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo), an intersex hacker fleeing sexual violence, is drawn to their late mother’s home. There they awaken and encounter Matalusa (Bertrand “Kaya Free” Ninteretse), a coltan miner sent on a mission while mourning the murder of his brother. In their love they will find the key encoded. As the film itself resists the very idea of a beginning and end, it shatters any attempt at summation. Instead, it regenerates through each scene, increasing the scale of its aesthetic opposition at every turn. Williams and Uzeyman outdo themselves in this poetically reflexive expression of sound-message and grounded movement. Put differently: this is cinema as an ecological gift to the dispossessed. Generously creative and unafraid, NEPTUNE FROST is here, now."]

Williams, Saul. "NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert." (Posted on Youtube: September 26, 2016) [" In terms of sheer intensity, Saul Williams' Tiny Desk concert may be the most potent in our eight-year history. Only Kate Tempest comes to mind as its equal, which makes sense given that both mix music with bracing, truthful poetry. In Williams' opening song — "Burundi," from his album MartyrLoserKing — the main character is a computer hacker who lives in Burundi and fights for democracy:
Question your authority, genocide and poverty
Treaties don't negate the fact you're dealing stolen property
Hacker, I'm a hacker, I'm a hacker in your hard drive
Hundred thousand dollar Tesla ripping through your hard drive
Accompanied by two acoustic guitars as they pound out a beat, Williams became ever more animated, riled and firm. Then, "Think Like They Book Say" paid homage to Chelsea Manning, the soldier serving a prison sentence for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. To close out the set, Williams cradled my James Brown doll and issued a powerful, somewhat off-the-cuff version of "Down For Some Ignorance." It brought him to tears, and you could feel his passion in every word — sharp, thoughtful, deeply powerful and utterly provocative."]

To listen to Saul Williams' album MartyrLoserKing (an inspiration for Neptune Frost) - click here

Not related to Neptune Frost, but another important artist interweaving their musical creativity with powerful imagistic storytelling:

Monday, April 15, 2024

Paul Conti: Psychology/Healthcare/Trauma/Mental Health (Shooting Azimuths)

 Conti, Paul. Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic. Sounds True, 2021. ["A Journey Toward Understanding, Active Treatment, and Societal Prevention of Trauma. Imagine, if you will, a disease—one that has only subtle outward symptoms but can hijack your entire body without notice, one that transfers easily between parent and child, one that can last a lifetime if untreated. According to Dr. Paul Conti, this is exactly how society should conceptualize trauma: as an out-of-control epidemic with a potentially fatal prognosis. In Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic, Dr. Conti examines the most recent research, clinical best practices, and dozens of real-life stories to present a deeper and more urgent view of trauma. Not only does Dr. Conti explain how trauma affects the body and mind, he also demonstrates that trauma is transmissible among close family and friends, as well as across generations and within vast demographic groups. With all this in mind, Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic proposes a course of treatment for the seemingly untreatable. Here, Dr. Conti traces a step-by-step series of concrete changes that we can make both as individuals and as a society to alleviate trauma’s effects and prevent further traumatization in the future. You will discover: The different post-trauma syndromes, how they are classified, and their common symptoms. An examination of how for-profit health care systems can inhibit diagnosis and treatment of trauma. How social crises and political turmoil encourage the spread of group trauma. Methods for confronting and managing your fears as they arise in the moment. How trauma disrupts mental processes such as memory, emotional regulation, and logical decision-making. The argument for a renewed humanist social commitment to mental health and wellness. It’s only when we understand how a disease spreads and is sustained that we are able to create its ultimate cure. With Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic, Dr. Conti reveals that what we once considered a lifelong, unbeatable mental illness is both treatable and preventable."]

Conti, Paul and Andrew Huberman. "How to Build and Maintain Healthy Relationships." The Huberman Lab (October 2023) ["This is episode 3 of a 4-part special series on mental health with Dr. Paul Conti, M.D., a psychiatrist who did his medical training at Stanford School of Medicine and residency at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of the book, “Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic.” Dr. Conti explains how to find, develop and strengthen healthy relationships — including romantic relationships, work and colleague relationships, and friendships. He explains a roadmap of the conscious and unconscious mind that can allow anyone to navigate conflicts better and set healthy boundaries in relationships. We also discuss common features of unhealthy relationships and clinically supported tools for dealing with relationship insecurity, excessive anxiety, past traumas, manipulation and abuse. Dr. Conti explains how, in healthy relationships, there emerges a dynamic of the mutually generative “us” and how to continually improve that dynamic. The next episode in this special series explores true self-care, which can be cultivated through a process of building self-awareness along with other important practices."]

---. "How to Improve Your Mental Health." The Huberman Lab (September 2023) ["This is episode 2 of a 4-part special series on mental health with Dr. Paul Conti, M.D., a Stanford and Harvard-trained psychiatrist currently running a clinical practice, the Pacific Premiere Group. Dr. Conti explains specific tools for how to overcome life’s challenges using a framework of self-inquiry that explores all the key elements of self, including defense mechanisms, behaviors, self-awareness and attention. We also discuss our internal driving forces, how to align them and ultimately, how to cultivate a powerful “generative drive” of positive, aspirational pursuits. Dr. Conti also explains how to adjust your internal narratives, reduce self-limiting concepts, overcome intrusive thoughts, and how certain defense mechanisms, such as “acting out” or narcissism, show up in ourselves and others. The next episode in this special series explores how to build healthy relationships with others."]

---. "How to Understand & Assess Your Mental Health." The Huberman Lab (September 6. 2023) ["This is episode 1 of a 4-part special series on mental health with psychiatrist Dr. Paul Conti, M.D., who trained at Stanford School of Medicine and completed his residency at Harvard Medical School before founding his clinical practice, the Pacific Premiere Group. Dr. Conti defines mental health in actionable terms and describes the foundational elements of the self, including the structure and function of the unconscious and conscious mind, which give rise to all our thoughts, behaviors and emotions. He also explains how to explore and address the root causes of anxiety, low confidence, negative internal narratives, over-thinking and how our unconscious defense mechanisms operate. This episode provides a foundational roadmap to assess your sense of self and mental health. It offers tools to reshape negative emotions, thought patterns and behaviors — either through self-exploration or with a licensed professional. The subsequent three episodes in this special series explore additional tools to further understand and improve your mental health."]

---. "Therapy, Treating Trauma & Other Life Challenges." The Huberman Lab (June 5, 2022) ["My guest this episode is Dr. Paul Conti, M.D., a psychiatrist and expert in treating trauma, personality disorders and psychiatric illnesses and challenges of various kinds. Dr. Conti earned his MD at Stanford and did his residency at Harvard Medical School. He now runs the Pacific Premiere Group—a clinical practice helping people heal and grow from trauma and other life challenges. We discuss trauma: what it is and its far-reaching effects on the mind and body, as well as the best treatment approaches for trauma. We also explore how to choose a therapist and how to get the most out of therapy, as well as how to do self-directed therapy. We discuss the positive and negative effects of antidepressants, ADHD medications, alcohol, cannabis, and the therapeutic potential of psychedelics (e.g., psilocybin and LSD), ketamine and MDMA. This episode is must listen for anyone seeking or already doing therapy, processing trauma, and/or considering psychoactive medication. Both patients and practitioners ought to benefit from the information."]

---. "Tools and Protocols for Mental Health." The Huberman Lab (September 27, 2023) ["This is episode 4 of a 4-part special series on mental health with Stanford and Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Paul Conti, M.D. Dr. Conti explains what true self-care is and how our mental health benefits from specific self-care and introspection practices — much in the same way that our physical health benefits from certain exercise and nutrition habits. He describes how the foundation of mental health is an understanding of one’s own mind and the specific questions to ask in order to explore the conscious and unconscious parts of ourselves. He describes how this process can be done either on our own, through journaling, meditation and structured thought, or in therapy with the help of a licensed professional. He also explains how unprocessed trauma can short-circuit the process and how to prevent that, and the role of friendships and other relational support systems in the journey of self-exploration for mental health. People of all ages and those with and without self-introspection and therapy experience ought to benefit from the information in this episode."]

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Don't Look Up (USA: Adam McKay, 2021)


 Don't Look Up (USA: Adam McKay, 2021: 143 mins)

Booker, M. Keith. "DON’T LOOK UP (2021, Directed by Adam McKay)." Comments on Culture (ND)

Drezner, Daniel W. "Taking a Hard Look at Don't Look Up." The Washington Post (January 4, 2022)

Eggert, Brian. "Don't Look Up." Deep Focus Review (May 29, 2022)

Gewertz, Daniel. "Don't Look Up - A Pitch-Dark Satire that Dares to be Impudently Pessimistic." The Arts Fuse (January 4, 2022) ["The knee-jerk, hateful reviews of Don’t Look Up possess comments so outsized, and so beside the point, that they bear a resemblance to the oblivious thinking of the movie’s anti-science ostriches."]

Gilbert, Sophie, et al. "Why Are People So Mad About Don’t Look Up?: Climate change is a tough subject for any film, let alone a satire." The Atlantic (January 14, 2022)

Grant, Catherine. "In the Nick of Time: On Cli-Fi and Ecocinema Film and Moving Image Studies." Film Studies for Free (June 7, 2022) ["Don’t Look Up (2021), a comedy about a comet on a collision course with Earth, is one of Netflix’s most-watched English-language films of all time. It sparked discussions around climate change and created a climate action platform that outlines what individuals can do against climate change. Netflix has also launched its Sustainability Collection in April 2022, with more than 170 films and series aimed at raising environmental awareness. “Entertain to Sustain” is the slogan behind the production and curation of this content and it goes hand in hand with Netflix’s Net Zero + Nature plan. But the question of what can be done, and what a movie or television series can achieve, has also led to criticism of Netflix’s greenwashing, emphasizing individual action and piecemeal corporate PR-heavy policies over politics. In our video essay “Climate Fictions, Dystopias, and Human Futures,” we take Don’t Look Up as a starting point to look back at the evolution of the concept of “cli-fi” (climate fiction) over more than a decade, reflect on shifting storytelling strategies of cli-fi films past, present, and future, and probe their possible impact -- from precursors such as Planet of the Apes (1968) and Soylent Green (1973) to the “classic” The Day after Tomorrow (2004) to recent variations on the cli-fi formula that break out of the white patriarchal mode like Fast Color (2018) and that incorporate lighter affects like Downsizing (2017). If cli-fi has a role to play in helping contemporary audiences imagine possible futures, part of its task will be to employ more diverse stories, characters, and settings. [JL and KL]"]

Like Stories of Old. "Don’t Look Up – A Problematic Metaphor For Climate Change?" (Posted on Youtube: January 26, 2022) [A video essay on Adam McKay’s film Don’t Look Up, includes discussion of the earlier films The Big Short and Vice, and a discussion of his innovative cinematic language.  Book & article sources: Bruno Latour - Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime; Timothy Morton - Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World; Ulrich Beck - Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity; Ulrich Beck - The Metamorphosis of the World: How Climate Change is Transforming Our Concept of the World.]

Rich, B. Ruby. "Don't Look Up: Film's COVID Prospects." Filmmaker Quarterly 75.3 (Spring 2022): 5 - 11.

Sirota, David. "The Real Story of Don't Look Up." Vox (February 15, 2022)