Monday, October 4, 2021

Unanimous Goldmine

Neptune Frost (2021) - Uzeyman, Williams Neptune Frost The coltan mines on the hills of Burundi supply minerals that makes tantalum capacitors used in most of world's electronic devices. Multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams (Slam) along with Rwandan artist Anisa Uzeyman use the mines as a springboard to embark on an ambitious DIY Sci-fi musical, Neptune Frost. Expansive in theme - shedding light on the continuing exploitation of the raw materials and black bodies in the globalist economy, non-binary look at the current society in a continent riddled with anti-gay laws sowed by the American evangelical missionaries, the vast network of internet warriors against hostile authoritarian regimes, the film is an amalgamation of the Afrofuturists' utopian version of what's to come.

Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse) works at a coltan mine, enduring harsh, inhumane treatment with fellow miners from armed military guards. When his brother Tekno is killed by the guards, the whole camp erupts in protests with the drumbeat and their chanting becomes songs: "Hack!" becomes their motto. Matalusa flees the camp and starts his journey into a commune, protected by an invisible barrier, called Digitalisa. It's a refuge for young hackers.

Intersex hacker Neptune, first played by Elvis Ngabo then Cheryl Isheja, is also on the run and finds her way through Digitalisa. She is greeted by the members of the community with names like Memory, Psychology and together start discussing the disruption in the system and help Neptune becoming Matyrloserking, a master hacker and disruptor of normative social code (the name came from Williams’s French friend pronouncing MLK badly).

Neptune Frost toys with heady ideas of colonialism, politics, history, tradition and gender fluidity in the era of Internet communication and global commerce. Instead of relying on techno-jargons to explain away the ills of the society, the film instead shoot for poetic dialog, singing and rapping infused with multiple languages, and soundscape steeped in African tradition. Always moving camera and vibrant colors, (by Uzeyman who serves as a DP of the project), and stunning set and costume design by Cedric Mizero, the film captures the energy and resourcefulness of the African art community.

The details and care that put into the project is astounding - clothing covered in various alphabet from the computer keyboards and other electronics parts, represent the scraps from the end of tech's cycle that began with the coltan mines in the same continent. Use of the blacklight paints and recycled bicycle wheels on mystics and artful copper wires extending from people's hair and make up are some examples of putting layers upon layers of texture and subtext. It would take multiple viewings to absorb the whole world created by Williams & Uzeyman and their team.

As the authorities' drones encroaching into the camp, the hope for the reclaiming technology grows, culminating to the rise of Matyrloserking from the ashes of Digitalisa.

Originally conceived as a graphic novel and a stage play, Neptune Frost has its faults: Its ethereal dialog and not well-defined narrative structure might throw people off the track. The film might lack the political urgency of Afrofuturist classics like Born in Flames, or Space is the Place but it's a grand experiment that requires attention and participation. Think of it as a spiritual, joyful lo-fi cousin of Matrix and Bacurau. The message might be the same here, but with more music and dancing. And it still manages looking like a badass cyberpunk film. Neptune Frost is a future cult classic in the making.

No comments:

Post a Comment