With ‘Neptune Frost,’ How to Make an Afrofuturist Sci-Fi Musical
, 2022-06-03 16:05:34,
The unconventional sci-fi musical “Neptune Frost” (in theaters), from the co-directors and partners Saul Williams, a seasoned musician and actor from New York, and Anisia Uzeyman, a Rwandan actress and filmmaker; interrogates the notion of technological progress from the vantage point of those living in the places exploited to achieve it.
Set in the mountains of the African nation of Burundi, their Afrofuturist vision, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, follows a former miner and an intersex hacker as they lead an uprising against oppressive forces. The realm they inhabit is one where reality and a digital interface, imbued with a magic realism, intersect in tactile ways.
Speaking via video call from their home in Los Angeles, the duo elucidated some of their one-of-a-kind film’s key concepts. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.
“Neptune Frost” was originally envisioned for the stage until producers persuaded you to turn the concept into a film. How did the medium of cinema reshape the project?
SAUL WILLIAMS: It allowed us to imagine what it would be like to shoot on location. We had written the story to take place in Burundi but knew that we wouldn’t be able to shoot there because of political unrest. But in the neighboring country of Rwanda, where Anisia is from, the doors were open. We arrived there in 2016 to shoot a sizzle reel and discovered a slew of Burundian refugees in Kigali who were students, artists and activists. We got excited about showing a place and faces that people haven’t really seen onscreen.
ANISIA UZEYMAN: We wanted to share the existing beauty of Rwanda that I was intimate with, as well as the language. We have an ancestral tradition of poetry.
WILLIAMS: After writing the script, working with those…
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