Hailed as “The future of Black film. Pure cinematic power” – by the Hollywood Reporter Neptune Frost is in cinemas now in the UK.
The cosmic bond between an Intersex runaway and an escaped coltan miner ignites a revolution against an interdimensional authoritarian regime in this mesmerising, anti-capitalist sci-fi musical from Saul Williams.
When a brutal act of violence on a coltan mine causes Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse) to flee, a dream guides him to the enigmatic Neptune, an Intersex hacker portrayed by both Elvis Ngabo and Cheryl Isheja.
Together, they unite with a hacker collective inhabiting an otherworldly e-waste camp to overthrow the oppressive regime exploiting the region’s people and resources. Made with an entirely Rwandan and Burundian cast and crew, Neptune Frost blends its electric afro-futurist cyberpunk aesthetics with an intoxicating fusion of traditional and contemporary music.
Through their radically bold stylistic choices, co-directors Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman craft a visionary exploration of the colonial and capitalist roots of economic exploitation in African mining regions, and the role of human connection versus technology in the fight against oppression. Directors Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams caught up with ALT A for a talk. Grab tickets click here.
Giver us some idea of what Neptune Frost means the themes, vision?
I think that the film is many things. I think that the film is there to inspire, to heal, to charge and even for the actions that people take, the actions that people take should normally be within the realm of their passions. And so a call to action for a visual artist may be to create visual art. It goes in many directions but is the film there to inspire certainly. To open up to be free to question and to nourish, to maybe nourishing actions. Yes, certainly. Yeah..
The cinematography was really beautiful. what was the inspiration and what did you want people to see visually?
First a science fiction musical. So in those two styles, you already have a pallet of possibilities and then really to make tributes to work that already existed in musicals where it went from Rockers to Greece to Jesus Christ Superstar, to all those musicals that exist. And how do you push it to the next generation, the next level. And then how do you enter the conversation with the wonderful visual scene that is occurring right now on the continent? The continent is producing a lot of visual art right now, and it’s a very, very booming, interesting revolutionary, I think for the times, because we have never been in a moment where we could see and share as many art, as much art from black people and from the continent and from the diaspora. And I think there is an aesthetic that is slowly showing up, and that is including things as up cycling and zero waste fashion and the use of colors that are we are just reappropriating and rebalancing pallets, I think. And the desire to film our skins in ways that are maybe new or that are at least trying to empower. To empower, I would say. And so all of that was very inspiring and was very was holding me up. And so it goes from making tributes to also filmmakers from the continent, from to Mambéty to Sembene and really trying to see what we could do in the science fictional musical world with that.
Can you tell us a bit about, Neptune Frost, not many people know where that name is from and how that came about and how you met Neptune Frost.
Sure. I mean, it was just a random afternoon where I was in Boston, Massachusetts for a poetry reading. And I passed a cemetery in Boston that said that African Americans who had fought in the American Revolutionary War, which is the war against Britain in the 1700s had been buried there. And they listed the names of a few of those soldiers, and one of the names was Neptune Frost. And for me, it just struck me immediately like the name of a superhero, and there wasn’t much information you could find on Neptune Frost. It was just enough to find that there was somebody Black in the 1700s named that, which was enough for my imagination to begin. And so from there I think Anisia and I had already been conceptualizing this story of this hacker, of this intersex hacker and this whole nine and then that name came into play. And because we think of the film as an origin story of a superhero who we refer to as the motherboard it made a lot of sense. It made a lot of sense on many levels to apply that name and to move from there.
And I’m just jumping on a bit of an Anisia said in regards to telling stories. Black Panther, Neptune Frost, The Woman King to name a few. Do you think this is a better time for Africans and Africans, in the diaspora telling our stories in Hollywood, in the film industry?
I don’t know. I mean, I feel like we have to be careful with that because there are cycles of representation. I mean, you can go through and look at Blaxploitation era stuff. There’s so many films from the seventies Blacula and all that stuff, and we probably have the same questions then, Oh, this is a great, And then we’ve been years without seeing ourselves reflected in particular ways. And what is amazing about the Times is that these times have the potentiality of being more global, right, of us communicating with each other across the diaspora, across the continent, and across the world. So that there is a potentiality to the times, but there is a work that has to be maintained. It’s just the conversation surrounding democracy in the states or wherever right now, that sense of you can’t just say, Okay, it’s democratic and let it be. If you are not careful, if you do not fight to maintain that, it’ll be taken away. And it’s an ongoing fight. You wouldn’t think the fight would go on 200 years after it’s already been declared, but the fight is right now.
So yeah, you can say that there are certain gates that are open but for us, for example, with the film that we wanted to make it was a fight to not have stars worldwide. A-list stars in it, fight to get funding. If you make that decision, it was a fight to not be in English. The other films you reference have those other things and are connected to major, what I’m saying. So as far as independent artists fighting for something that doesn’t belong to a franchise or a major whatever, it’s still a fight. It’s still a fight. And then when Netflix or the CNC from France attach finances to African films they attach documentary budgets. You know what I’m saying?
Some more links to book here: