Black History month: The unconventional state of Afro-centric cinema


For Black History month, we are looking at Afro-centric cinema and filmmakers that have broken down barriers and have helped create dialogue of inclusiveness and representation. Representation in media is important, it relates to not only how we see ourselves, but how others see us as a culture.

For Black History month, we wanted to examine Afro-centric genre films. Unfortunately, they haven’t always been authentic portrayals of the black race, more times then not they have been exploitative and used race as more of a comedic jump off point. There have been some exceptions to this, but until a few decades ago this was the general state of how things were done in the Hollywood studio system.

Black History Month Celebrates Brilliance

The 1990’s provided audiences with Candyman, Tales From the Hood and People Under the Stairs. With these films audiences saw a big turn around in how race was handled in horror movies. Allegories and subtext in these productions were so bold and fresh, that on a certain level they were revolutionary.

Recent years have shown a major increase in representation and a new brilliant wave in unconventional and thought provoking Afro-centric genre films. Jordan Peele broke the doors open wide with the 2017 genius, socio-political hit Get Out .

That being said, there is so much more going on out there that I just don’t feel as though enough people are paying attention to the scene. Independent and underground cinema is thriving with new and exciting stories that feature people of color.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 13: Filmmaker and rapper Flying Lotus visits the Build Series to discuss his new film “Kuso” at Build Studio on July 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

In 2017, visual artist, composer, and actor Steven Ellison, better known by his stage name Flying Lotus, directed his first feature length film Kuso. Kuso is a mind blowing work that presents a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles and the bizarre occurrences that evolve there after a catastrophic natural disaster.

It’s funny that the term “kuso” is used in East Asia to describe internet culture, and generally includes parody and camp. In Japanese, “kuso” also means crap. All of this makes sense, because through Flying Lotus’s non-linear story-telling he has presented clever social satire that references defecation.

Kuso is not a movie for everyone. I loved it, but I love gross out humor and socio-political art and this effort is a perfect combination of both.

A year later, director Jim Hickcox brought us his urban sci-fi/horror hybrid Soft Matter. On the same wave length as Kuso in how bizarre it is, this production is much more straight forward in its sense of story-telling.

The plot follows two graffiti artists who break into an abandoned, and supposedly haunted research facility to turn it into an art installation. Little do they know that there are a couple of mad scientists in there that have summoned an ancient sea god, and all hell breaks loose.

Soft Matter is an important film because it is a weird piece of genre cinema that depicts African-American characters in a way that comes across as fresh and relatable.

Ruby Lee Dove II-Soft Matter-Courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing

Rounding out our Black History month Afro-centric triple feature, Sorry to Bother You is a must see. Although It is the most mainstream and easily accessible of the three films, it is no less important.

It is my favorite movie of 2018, because it’s unbelievably smart and subversive. Not to mention, the story contains a great sci-fi/horror twist that you don’t see coming.

Sorry to Bother You takes place in Oakland, CA in the not-so-distant future, where telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) has a tough time making sales until his older and wiser co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) drops some knowledge on him.

Cassius learns to use his “white voice” and his sales go through the roof. Things get really strange and almost magical. I don’t want to get too much into that, because I don’t want to ruin this movie for you, if you haven’t seen it yet.

It’s no coincidence that all of these movies that I mentioned are directorial debuts. Each production comes across as fresh and rebellious, something most seasoned directors no longer offer.

Next. Movie Trailers. dark

There is a revolution in cinema of inclusion, representation, and characters with depth. If you aren’t on board with what’s coming down the tracks, then you’re bound to get run over. Weird Afro-centric movies rule!

Have you seen Sorry to Bother You yet? Feel free to share your thoughts in the section below.