BY EMILY EAGLIN
Happy Friday! Welcome to my new series of Free Film Fridays, where I will be introing & linking y'all to alternative, new wave, & avant garde flicks available to stream for free. Tonight we have a double feature of futurist/sci-fi flicks, Pumzi (Kaihu, 2009) & Sunspring (Sharp, 2016). Both films run under 25 minutes and can be found for FREE using the links below:
Pumzi is a Kenyan/South African short written by Wanuri Kahiu, while Sunspring is an American short written entirely by an Ai using neural networks. Both films engage in unique ways with the tradition of futurism & sci-fi; while Pumzi is more narrative & natural in nature, Sunspring is quite the opposite with no perceivable plot at all (unless you are in a hell of a 'state of mind').
"In a Future with mass unemployment, young people are forced to sell blood." -H
This is the first sentence of dialogue in Sunspring, uttered by a protagonist-like character only referred to in the script as "H" (played by Thomas Middleditch). I've admittedly watched this short over and over again, especially when sharing it with others on riding the same mothership. As a species we wonder what it's like to see from our computer's perspective, Google's Deep dream is one answer to that. We wonder what it's like to create & think as a computer, Sunspring is an answer to this.
One of the geniuses in Sunspring lies in its actors, who play to the script like it makes tangible sense? Which is surreal, incredible, & lands you realizing you may be the one player here who's not in on the joke. Does this flick make sense to a computer? Will we understand this movie 200 years from now? Is the movie that advance or is creative Ai just behind our own comprehension? I'm left wondering who is catching up to who. The Ai also wrote a song, which was recorded and is played towards the end of the film, it's basically an FKA Twigs song. Five stars.
I don't mean to be a traitor to the organic, but I would watch a whole festival of these, there are literally endless ways we can feed Ai scripts, songs, genres, ideas, etc. & interpret their ideas onto screen creatively. It's a scary beginning to exciting possibilities, in my opinion. Side note: Can't wait for West World to come back? I hope those humans eat it!
Kudzani Moswela in Pumzi
Following along with thoughts on possibilities, Pumzi shows us a world where Sci-Fi as a genre can be made and set in Africa, while being about characters with a more melanated experience. There's more to spoil here in terms of plot, so I'll continue cautiously. In creating this film Director Wanuri Kahiu says she did not intend to create a Sci-Fi, she just wrote a story about a girl in the future and then was informed that this was the genre it fell under. She recounts that within a tradition of lore & storytelling, "sci-fi" and "futurism" stories have been told throughout Africa for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. A lens that rings true for me, especially growing up with stories of Anansi among others. Just, what a thought to think on!
Pumzi is visually stunning. It is a element-centric short that many would categorize as "Afrofuturist", Kahiu, in the same interview, recounts on how she views that tag.
In Pumzi, Kahiu dreams up a suppressed reality after WWIII, a time seemingly after the end of time. In Sunspring the Ai takes the driver's seat in its imagining of an amalgamated script. When viewed together, both of these shorts give us a glimpse at a true future for the genre of sci-fi. For a genre still so plagued with embodiments of regression in its imaginations for the future, in the simplest of sense, this is all I'm asking for.