Space is the Place in this Afrofuturistic film. Why stay on earth and face constant harassment, beatings, caste systems, and overall oppression? When a place waits for us amongst the stars? Sun Ra, after being reported missing for years, returns to earth and battles for the fate of the black race. With stunning costumes and riveting dialogue, this is one film that should be in every filmmakers library. From visuals, to social issues, this film covers a lot of ground.
Sun Ra and The aptly named Overseer are battling for the future of black people. Sun Ra has found a place that black people can go just be black without any oppression. For him it’s just a matter of transportation. Molecularization or music? It’s a beautiful dream. But when he gets back to Earth he’s immediately confronted with the type of black person that wouldn’t want this to happen at all. The Overseer enlists the help of a black media personality to get his word out to the masses. The interaction between these two is a reflection of what really happens with these media types. Always dangling a promise of something they want in their face, then when they do the job, and they don’t get what they want…the overseer does. The needle is always moving. There are many parallels to be drawn between this film and the real world and that’s the point.
One of the great things about this film is the dialogue that occurs between the overseer and Sun Ra. The overseer at one point singles out a black man, a pimp, who has beaten a woman and asks Sun Ra. “Is this what you want to save?” A pertinent question indeed. Questions actually abound in this film and leaves you with more afterwards. Beautiful questions, especially for the time period. Another line I love is “White people have already touched the moon, I see they haven’t invited you.” They begin listening to him when they realize there’s not much going here and as nobody is investing in a new start for them here, why not make space their place?
The plot and dialogue were great, suffers from a bit of stiff acting from Sun Ra but nothing to distracting.
One major point that I must make. Besides the women in his “Arkestra” there aren’t too many black women, none as leads to be sure. The ones(outside of the singers) we see are sex workers, and disbelievers with “attitude.” The one recurring black woman immediately strips, then gets beaten by white Nasa scientists after laughing at their impotence. It seems in this world black women who aren’t singing or having sex aren’t seen as implicitly worthy of saving as the black men are. Now, the disrespect of black women is definitely one of the themes, however I do believe the lack of care when crafting the black women characters is a direct contradiction to their stance on this issue and thus completely eradicates the intersections between black woman oppression and overall black oppression. In this dream of a future, I don’t believe I saw any black women on that ship other than his singers. It throws off the balance and makes it seem like the disrespect is a sidebar instead of a major issue. This is a huge problem for a film with such a progressive message. So that knocks down the rating.
I give this film 3.5 stars out of 5. Just can’t look past a progressive theme with a regressive treatment of black women.
The other problem with films like this is that 44 years later, we’re asking the same questions and dreaming the same dream. But if you love sci-fi blended smoothly with social issues I definitely suggest you Check it out.
Thanks for reading!