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Here's Our List of 8 Must-See Afrofuturist Films

Say goodbye to your social life, you've got movies to watch.

Like us, you may be seeking a fix for your Afrofuturism craving. Although the media has been pressing Afrofuturism as a fad, it's been alive in film for years. It's always satisfying to see sci-fi films through a black lens, and that's exactly what Afrofuturism is about, whether it pertains to visualizing the future, or reliving the past. Not only are these films entertaining, but they are also thought provoking and innovative.

See our must watch list of Afrofuturism films below.


1. They Charge for the Sun (2016)

Although released in 2016, this film just started entering the limelight as of last year, having premiered with the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Pan African Film Festival amongst others. One of our favorite sci-fi settings, They Charge for the Sun is set in a dystopian future where people live in the dark to avoid the harmful rays of sunlight. The main character is a young black girl who decides to find the truth behind the lie that has kept she and her family chained in the shadows. Beautifully shot with great storytelling, directed by Terence Nance and written by Eugene Ramos, this short will leave you wanting more.


2. Sankofa (1993)

Ethiopian filmmaker, Haile Gerima, known for the film Teza, which was rated one of the ten "Best African Films of All Time," took the meaning of "sankofa" to an entirely new level. The Twi language of Ghanaian word, "sankofa" meaning "to return, to seek, to take" is applied in his emotionally tolling, yet thrilling film. Sankofa follows a narcissistic supermodel who is sucked back in time to a West Indies plantation as a slave, involuntarily becoming part of a rebellion stirring Maroon colony. The film was rated at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was placed in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Starring Kofi Ghanaba, Oyafunmike Ogunlano, and Alexandra Duah, Sankofa is a story of sacrifice, reformation, community, and hope.


3. Afronauts (2014)

This is another short film to add to your watch list. Directed by talented Ghanaian filmmaker, Frances Bodomo, an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival, featured in an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and reviewed by the New York Times, Afronauts is both a journey back in time and a gaze into the future. It tells the hidden story of Zambian citizens who tried to beat the United States to the moon. With just a small budget, the film is nothing less than visually mesmerizing. Featuring the fierce Yolonda Ross (The Chi, The Get Down and Antwone Fisher), and Hoji Fortuna (The Chateau). Rated as one of OkayAfrica's "Top African Films of 2014," there's a reason why it made it back to another list four years later.


4. The Last Angel of History (1996)

This film will take you back to your roots. Ghanaian-British artist, writer and filmmaker, John Akomfrah takes audiences on a time-traveling journey. This documentary meets artistic narrative merges the fictitious story of the "data thief," to explore the origins of techno-music, Afrofuturism, and its impact on the world. Akomfrah has been known to move viewers with his ability to encapsulate an entire country's painful history in just one clip, so the inclusion of dialogue and insightful interviews in this film is a treat for those familiar with his work. Featuring great artists and critics like George Clinton, Kodwo Eshun and Nichelle Nichols, The Last Angel is a piece for more than just music lovers.


5. Pumzi (2009)

Before the controversial, stunning film Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to premier at Cannes, Keynan filmmaker, Wanuri Kahiu, solidified her storytelling voice with Pumzi. This film is a prime example of viewing the future through an African lens. The film is set in the East African territory of Maitu exactly thirty-five years after the fictitious Water War, "World War III." It follows a conforming curator, Aisha, who comes across something that may change everything she and her people know about the world outside of their isolated community. She is then faced with the decision of whether to defy authority and do what is right. Pumzi is a symbolic political commentary that explores the themes of communication, consumption, and hope. Although it has been a few years since it was announced the film will be made into a feature, it is definitely worth watching the origin of Pumzi and see how it won Award of the City of Venice at the Venice Film Festival, and made our list of favorites. You can view the full film below.


6. The Sin Seer (2015)

To shift gears a bit, The Sin Seer is an action filled thriller for those seeking a more blockbuster experience. Grey's Anatomy's Isaiah Washington plays a cop alongside actress Lisa Arrindell Anderson, a "sin seer" who uses her gift to help unravel unsolved cases. Yet when one case reaches too close to home she suddenly comes face to face with her troubling past, as well as the dark secrets of those closest to her. Director and producer, Paul D. Hannah's aesthetic and strong themes trump the somewhat faltering performances, still making it quite a ride. The Sin Seer is currently available on Netflix.


7. Brown Girl Begins (2017)

You may remember her as now hip-hop artist Drake's mother on the teen melodrama Degrassi, but Sharon Lewis is making a new name for herself as a powerful filmmaker with this Urbanworld Film Festival debut. Set in 2049, Ti-Jeanne, played by emerging actress, Mouna Traoré (In Contempt), is faced with the decision of whether or not she wants to hone her Caribbean roots to sacrifice herself as a priestess to save her people in this dystopian drama. Not only is the cinematography and production value exceptional, but it is a coming of age story about sacrifice, love, and self-identity. Not to mention it's nearly all cast of kings and queens from all over the diaspora and written from the perspective of a Caribbean-Canadian feminist writer. View Lewis' interview, featuring exclusive clips from the film below.


8. Hello Rain (2018)

Nigerian writer, director, editor and Juju expert, C.J. 'Fiery' Obasi brings us an infusion of African magic and technology in this magical-realism film. Hello Rain is about a "scientist-witch," Rain, who creates wigs that grant she and her accomplices supernatural powers. Yet when things get out of control and her masterpieces turn her power hungry friends into uncontrollable beings, she is faced with the difficult task of finding a way destroy them before it's too late. Full of popping color, beautiful cinematography, and masterful artistic costume design, Obasi sure brings a world to life. You can view our talk with Hugo and Nebula award winning writer, Nnedi Okorafor earlier this month after viewing exclusive footage of the film here. The film's UK premier is July 20th at the Southbank Center.


Zubaydah Bashir is a filmmaker and writer from South Orange, NJ. Follow her on Instagram @zu_thecute and visit her website to indulge in her blog and find out about her latest film and tv projects.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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