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:

No comments:

Post a Comment