Directors Anisia Uzeyman and multi-talented Saul Williams deep dive into Afro-Futurism with the new film Neptune Frost. The film first premiered at Director’s Fortnight in Cannes, was an official selection at the Toronto Film Festival, and now at the New York Film Festival. Frost is a bold story about how the power of music, technology and dreams can profoundly impact human connection. The sensual visuals, coupled with an anti-capitalist theme that is somewhat bleak, this is a film about finding happiness in community and embracing the future.
Set in Rwanda, this cyber-musical follows Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse), a poverty-stricken miner, and an intersex hacker, Neptune (played by Elivs Ngabo and Cheryl Isheja), and who find one another through cyberspace. Their chemistry is instant, and love emancipates them from the physical and internal struggle they face. Williams creates a tender dynamic between the two characters. Witnessing Black joy in cinema isn’t as prominent as it should be, but the directors do their due diligence to form a balance of light and dark for the audience.
The film interrogates the rampant poverty that affects various countries across the African continent through Neptune and Matalusa’s relationship. Williams also investigates technology, how it can help or be harmful on people living in the real world and the parallel world. The story and plotting are scattered, but the film is easier to digest if you think of Matalusa and Neptune as representations of societal ideals like freedom and empathy, Psychology (Trésor Niyongabo) and Memory (Eliane Umuhire).
Williams wrote the music and score for the film, choosing to begin and end it with the beat of the drum. This is apt as music and sound are the beating heart of Neptune Frost. You can hear the lyrics and poetry in motion as the music narrates the story like a Greek chorus, thus giving the audience just enough information to move the story forward. Uzeyman’s cinematography will take the viewer on a journey of visual ecstasy with its symbolic use of lush neon red and blue hues reflected on Black skin. Ominous red flashes of light appear in scenes when something sinister is afoot, while the cool blue tones denote innocence, goodness and beauty.
Neptune Frost portrays what Afro-Futurism could look like if cinema took risks by building a niche in the science-fiction space. Films needs more inclusive stories that capture the lives of people all over the world. Saul Williams has a promising career as a writer-director in this industry as his creative vision and ability to think outside the box are needed to push cinema forward.