Afrofuturism: Blackness Revisualized

S1 E14 | FULL EPISODE

Cinema of the Afrofuture (Battledream Chronicle/Hello, Rain)

Join “Afrofuturism: Blackness Revisualized” series curator Celia C. Peters for a discussion of two films from the festival, “Hello, Rain” and “Battledream Chronicle.” Presented as part of the ALL ARTS Talks series, the “Cinema of the Afrofuture” panel will discuss these films, black representation in animation, African-based folklore, Black women’s relationship with hair, and more.

AIRED: August 05, 2021 | 1:01:37
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

[upbeat music]

- Hello, everyone.

Welcome to "Cinema of the Afrofuture."

My name is Celia C. Peters,

and I am the curator of Blackness Revisualized,

which is the Afrofuturist Film Festival produced

by "ALL ARTS" and "WNET" in New York City.

And our festival is up and running now,

and you can reach it via streaming at allarts.org.

and as a part of the festival,

every other month, we're doing filmmaker conversation,

so our festival features 10 films from filmmakers

from five different countries,

and we have a monthly feature every month,

one of the films is broadcast,

but all of them are available to stream

and they will be available to stream until January of 2022.

So you've got time to take in

this brilliant, brilliant filmmaking,

but as a part of the festival,

we're doing these bi-monthly filmmaker conversations

so that you can have a little bit of face time

with the creators of this wonderful work

and also we have other guests who are involved as well,

who can speak to what these films are about.

So today we have the directors of our two feature films

for this month, "Hello, Rain,"

and we have the director, C.J. Obasi,

as well as "Battledream Chronicle,"

and we have director Alain Bedard with us today.

As well, we have Yna Boulangé,

who is one of the starring actresses

in "Battledream Chronicle,"

and we have a spectacular hair artists

from the U.K. Angela Plummer, who's joined us to really talk

about some of the themes that we see in "Hello, Rain."

So welcome, everyone.

Thank you so much for joining us,

we're really glad to have you.

How's everybody doing good?

- I'm fine. - Doing greatly.

- Good, and I wanna let the audience know

that this is really speaking to the power of technology

to connect us across the world.

Everyone here is in a different country,

well, except for two.

So Yna and Alain are in Martinique.

- Yeah. - Angela is in London,

and C.J. is in Benin Republic, and I am in the Bay Area.

I'm in Oakland, California.

So we're able to have this conversation.

And our tech crew is in New York,

so this is like a beautiful thing.

This is like the Afro future happening right here.

[C.J. chuckling] - Right.

- So I'm gonna jump in with a couple of questions

for the directors.

I guess each of you, if you could speak

to just kind of tell us a little bit

about what your film is about.

So let's start with C.J.

Tell us what "Hello, Rain" is about,

and then also, if you could tell us what the inspiration was

for the film.

- Okay, thanks, thanks for having me.

"Hello, Rain," it's a story about three scientist witches

who combine juju and technology

to create these powerful supernatural wigs,

then as it is with most things that has to do with humans

when power comes into play, corruption comes into play.

So the leader of the group, Rain, now has to contend

with her friends who have become corrupt

from their position of too much power

and it has to bring them under control.

And so the entire film or the entire story plays out

where she confronts them and it becomes a case

of what happens when juju and technology combines,

and what is the results?

So as for the inspiration,

the inspiration came from the short story

by Nnedi Okorafor.

She's a great Nigerian-American author,

Nebula Award winning author,

and I've always been a huge fan of hers for a long time.

And I was just privileged to kind of get in touch with her,

and when I got in touch with her,

I realized that she already knew about my work.

She was a fan of my first feature film, "Ojuju,"

and so it wasn't really difficult to be on the same page

in terms of trying to get the option and stuff like that,

'cause she was really very willing to do that.

It ended up being her first work to be adopted,

even though wasn't the first to the optioned,

and that happened, I think in 2017, in early 2017.

So all through the process, it was just writing

and then consulting with her as well,

just to make sure that because I'm such a huge fan

of the story, so I wanted to be as true to the story.

And I always read about these things

where film makers go ahead and do their own thing,

the author just hates the work,

and I never wanted that to be my experience

because I was such a huge fan of the story

and so I wanted the author

to really like what I wanted to do,

and that's how it kind of worked out.

- So no pressure. [Celia laughing]

- Yeah, kind of.

- So I'm gonna move on

because we're definitely gonna come back

'cause I have some other questions

about this story in particular, and I'm gonna ask Alain,

if you could also talk

about how "Battledream Chronicle" came about,

and also how long have you been an animator?

- Okay, can you hear me?

Okay. [Alain laughing]

Thanks for having me, and "Battledream Chronicle"

was a project that I had into 2007.

First, I wanted to make a series

but it was not possible at this time.

I wanted to represent Martinican people

in animation film or animation series,

because before that, we were not seen in animation.

I grew up with seeing American, Japanese, European,

in animation, but I never saw myself,

not even some neighboring islands,

so I wanted to create something

where we could see ourself.

When I wrote the story,

it's really different culture from what we are used to see,

I had to reinvent a new language with new rules,

very different from what we were used to see.

So I had

to sensitize every aspect of my culture

and create something new.

So that gave me something completely original

from what we were used to see in mainstream animation,

and one thing that was most interesting

was to try to represent the birth of,

let's say as a part of the Martinican history

where we were free.

So this part, when we go from slavery to freedom,

to citizenship, I wanted to represent that.

And I didn't want to use a picture or visuals from the past.

I really wanted something more interesting,

something

more in tune with what people wanted to see

and science fiction was perfect genre

to represent ourselves.

- Yeah, very fascinating for the audience.

Alain's film, "Battledream Chronicle" takes place

in the future, but in within a video game, correct?

- Yes.

- And he's dealt with the system of plantation and slavery,

but within the context of very high tech context

of this video game, but it's very futuristic

and so the imagery, it's really epic.

And so I think you brought something,

I've never seen that before

and I'm sure no one else has either,

but I think it's really cool

how you brought Martinican culture specifically

into your story through the visuals

and through the narrative.

And speaking of culture,

then C.J. could you speak a little bit about what juju is?

And you are a Nigerian, correct?

- Yes.

- Yes, so can you tell for our audience

who may not be aware, what is juju?

- Okay, juju is essentially,

what you know as traditional medicine

or traditional practice.

Just like you have science and medicine,

juju is the African version of that,

but what makes juju unique is that it's connected

to our spirituality, so it really is rooted

in the spirituality of the people.

So you hear the Westerners call it black magic,

but it really is rooted in the spirituality

and the culture of the people.

I come from the Igbo tribe,

so what you call juju is like omenala.

Omenala literally means culture.

So it's like the way of life of the people,

how they interact with their universe,

the universe around them, themselves,

God the Supreme being and the forces.

- That's really, really interesting

because we see that theme.

I mean, obviously we see the legacy

of indigenous spiritual practices

by people of African descent as well as others

that have been in the Western world

have been demonized for so long and-

- Yeah, and even in Nigeria as well,

and in the Northern African countries,

'cause of colonialism, yes.

- Yes, colonialism. - Absolutely.

- We've got, and we've seen it in America's slavery as well,

where enslaved people who came here,

who were brought here rather,

their spiritual practices were outlawed,

they would face harsh punishment if not death,

for practicing the ways that were natural for them.

- Yes.

- So with that, within your story,

then we have this inner weaving of hair.

And so Angela, I want to ask you, because you are,

I keep saying a hair artists, you are a braid artist,

you do amazing things with braids,

and I think for a lot of people in the states.

I think a lot of people here think of it

as a relatively modern thing.

So I think here, in the '70s,

there were a lot of people doing cornrows

and certainly in the '80s and it's been very, very popular,

much more widespread, and since the '90s,

there's tons of people, and we see in our bigger cities

where there are larger groups of African immigrants,

for example, who have braid shops.

So we have a lot of people getting braids,

but braiding is actually much, much older than that, right?

It's not necessarily a modern phenomenon,

it's been going on for a while.

So can you talk to a little bit

of sort of how long braiding has been a part of cultures

of African descent, and then maybe also speak

to what do hairstyles mean to humans?

Period. [hand tapping]

- Hi, everyone, thank you for having me.

And weave braiding for me, goes back

over 5,000 years. - Wow.

- And with the African culture, the braiding is arts.

They do so much diversity with their hair,

and braiding, it could be fretting,

which is a form of braiding, but even use the Els

and the bonding, everything,

what they do in their hair is pretty.

[audio breaking up]

Everything that they do in their hair is a big deal,

the braiding back in the days,

it reminded me of architecture,

like you're building a building

and you have to understand the foundation

of how to get the hairstyle to stay

in a form of like a building.

So once the style is there, it doesn't move

and it doesn't fall over, so it's based upon the foundation

of how the arts is constructed.

So back then, over 5,000 years ago,

they understood the foundation and the arts

of how to create the hairstyles, the braiding, the fretting

with cheddar powder

in order to make the style last for a very long time.

So I find the reason of hair artists now,

we're creating style some back in the days.

So we have to understand how it started

in order for us to move forward and progress in our arts

and understand the foundations of what we do

and the construction.

So I always look at the form of braid

and all the form of art hair braiding as architecture,

like you do in a building so it doesn't pull down.

- Right, that makes sense.

I mean, certainly we can see it in your work,

and then "Hello, Rain," the ladies have these wigs

that have braiding that's integrated into them

and the wigs have power.

- Yeah.

- And so did that surprise you at all,

that there would be that power in our hair?

- Well, when I was watching it,

and then I heard the word wigs, I'm like "What?"

And I had to stop and rewind it

just to make sure I actually heard the word

that creative wigs, and I was like,

"Okay, so this is gonna be really interesting movie,"

but what I got from it was like,

I feel I have power when I do my hair

'cause I don't really do much to my hair

on a normal day basis anyway,

but as soon as I've put on the hair piece

or I do something with my hair,

I feel like I have a super power.

So the movie had a very strong message,

and in the minute you take the head off,

you kind of lose your power and you kind of back down

to be a normal person.

So I got super powerful on that movie,

but I actually enjoyed it.

I watched it about four times.

[Ceila laughing]

Wow, it was really interesting.

- Thank you.

- Thanks for your work, Angela.

[panelists laughing]

- Right.

- Wow, thank you. [panelists laughing]

I liked it.

- I'm gonna move to Yna, and I'm going to ask you

about your character, Meghan, and we see her behind you,

the lovely Meghan.

And so what makes Meghan tick, and what does she want

in "Battledream Chronicle?"

- Now, hello, everybody.

Meghan for me, was a woman,

who fights for revolution, who fights for rights.

We have many women in our heroines, heroes people.

Alain said the past, no, no, but women all were there,

the young, the old, the strong.

She a stand up woman.

We say Creole from debut, in "Farmer" debut.

Women fights.

[Yna laughing]

She gives hands to reach freedom,

and she has a heart.

She has a heart.

She's very strong, she has help,

and she can add what the struggle mean.

What she have to do.

She she's a leader.

- So and as you say that, it makes me think,

so the word that came to my mind was warrior,

and I was thinking about when you said that in history,

there were so many strong women, both young and old,

and so I also thought about Harriet Tubman

because in the United States, Harriet Tubman

was an enslaved woman who brought countless numbers

of other enslaved people to freedom,

led them through very dangerous territory,

and she did it until she was old,

like until she was quite old,

and she soon will be on one of our currency,

our $20 bill, I believe.

That's what everybody's hoping for.

So that must've been an exciting character to play

because I think that's certainly something that we want

and we need more representation of these women,

like black women of hearts, who have heart,

and who were hiding for what they believe.

- Yes.

Oh, sorry. - I'm sorry, go ahead.

- She has a heart, she has a mission, it's her way of life.

She has to do that.

I think as C.J. even if it's not representing

in the character, drawing by Alain, she knows the things.

She knows.

No, I don't know how to say that, when you have mission,

you know what's-

- Visionary?

- No, we have missions and we know how lead them.

- Gotcha.

- I don't know if it's correct, but everybody has a mission.

- I Understand, like you have your destiny.

- Destiny? - Yes, yes.

- Yeah, you have to fulfill.

Understood.

- Okay, sorry, let's go.

We haven't any details about her life,

children, man, lovers, nothing about that.

And Timmy T. is not about this woman.

She's a leader and that just her way, in Alain way.

- So her mission is really what is driving her.

- We.

- So Alain, I would like to ask you,

how did this film come about?

How did the actual production come about?

- So how it was created?

- Did you do the work in Martinique?

- Yes, yes,

I wanted to create the entire film in Martinique

because the idea was that we could do this in the island,

because most of the time when we need

to do something in Martinique,

we call someone else from France, and I really wanted

to show that we can do this in Martinique,

we have local talents, very great talents like Yna

and other actors.

And so

we didn't have a lot because the animation studio

is a small one, and I didn't use those,

the software's that we are used to see

in big production like Disney or Pixar.

So with what I had, some drive, some computers,

and

I made the film.

So it took seven years because I had to make mistakes.

[Alain chuckling] - Yeah.

- There has been the two first years

when I created 50 minutes and there was a crash,

the drive died and the backup died a free hours later,

so I had to redo 50 minutes.

- So you had to start over?

- Yes, yes.

- When your drive crashed and your back up drive crashed.

- Exactly. - Oh my God.

Every filmmaker seeing this is like sinking,

like their heart is in their feet right now,

I can't even imagine.

And how many animators worked on it?

- I was alone.

I was alone because-

- Wow, so you animated this entire film?

- Yes, because in Martinique,

we are at the beginning of animation,

there wasn't a lot of people who were animators,

most of them being in other countries.

Back in the day, I think we were maybe five or six,

and most of them were in London or Canada,

or New Zealand, and so to bring a team, we also need money,

and in France, well, in the French world,

most of the movies are funded by the government,

but we have a tumultuous history with France,

so we really don't want to produce this kind of content,

so as they didn't want to help.

I didn't find funding, sufficient funding for that,

so I couldn't hire people, so I decided to do it

because I wanted the project to get done,

to show that it can be done,

because I have not been the first

because Euzhan Palcy, who was the first Martinican woman

to create a film live action in the '80s,

she also tried with the 20th Century Fox.

In the end of the '90s she tried to create animation film,

a black animation film,

because Fox tried to make "Titan A.E." back in the day

and it didn't work so they shut down the production

that has already started,

and some other methods they can try to create projects

and for animation feature film but it didn't work.

And so I knew I was alone because this was also a project,

had ready crews and people ready to create everything,

but I said to do that.

I didn't know if I would succeed and finally worked.

- But you did, and you did so spectacularly,

and I just wanna point out to those in the audience,

particularly those aspiring filmmakers.

When you look at this film and you look at,

it's originally stunning, but as you watch it,

remember this is one animator,

one man who animated this film and did it.

I mean, you worked on it for over two years

when you had the crash, is that correct?

- Yes. - Yeah, so then

from the time he had to start from square one,

five years of working on this alone.

So to me, that really brings out two things.

One is the importance of resilience

and commitment to your art,

because you can do whatever it is that you would envision

and that you imagine you could do it,

because if you couldn't, you wouldn't be able to imagine it.

Secondly, the power of community,

and really, I'm sure that if you had had a team,

even if you had one other person working

at full capacity with you, you probably that time,

would have been in half at least.

And so it is important.

And I understand that you were in circumstances

where you didn't have someone,

but I think this is the beauty of what we're able to do now

with connecting, connecting in our own communities,

in our own cities, in our own countries and in the world,

that we can come together with these visions

and work together.

Thank you, for sharing that.

Now, C.J. I want to ask you one question

out of my own curiosity, which is where did you shoot?

And then another question

is what was the most challenging aspect of your production?

- You said the first question is where did I shoot?

- Yes.

- Okay, I shot it all in Lagos.

- In Lagos, Okay.

- Yes, I shot the interior scenes, well, in a studio,

so the sets were built in a studio

and obviously, the VFX scenes were also with green screen

and all of that in the studio.

Then we shot scene on location in an actual neighborhood,

and then the markets, it was in an actual market.

- That was my main concern, the market.

- Yeah. [C.J. laughing]

That was at the real markets, real Lagos markets,

and that was tough to film as you would imagine.

And then-

- Let me stop you one second,

and I just wanna ask you something,

when you shot in the market scene

in an actual market in Lagos,

did you have to tell people not to look at the camera?

- At first, yes, but it wasn't working

because people are gonna look at the camera anyway.

[Celia laughing]

And so this just kind of an idea just came, just hit me.

I'm going to stop telling them not to look at the camera.

Let them just keep looking at the camera

and then we do our rehearsals, we'll do our setups,

then when they are tired of looking,

they just get on with their business

and then we're shooting.

[panelist laughing]

- That's great.

I'm gonna use that because that's one of the things

that drives me crazy when you shouldn't in public

and no matter how many,

but I also feel the more times you say,

"Don't look in the camera,"

the more people look in the camera.

- Yeah, that's exactly what happened.

- So anyway, I interrupted you, I'm sorry.

What was the most challenging aspect?

- The most challenging, I think it's funding.

I can pretty much relate with Alain on this.

When you're trying to tell a particular kind of story,

it's very difficult to find support,

personnel supports, financial supports, all of those things.

Mine wasn't so much personnel,

obviously because there was the whole team,

but it's hoping or wishing

that you had a little bit more money where you can,

just using more time to play around with some ideas,

play around with some concepts that you feel might add

to the overall production values of the film,

and just not being able to do that,

but then you just realize, "Okay, I can't do this,

but what can I do?"

If I can do this.

So it's, for me, those are the challenges,

the challenge of deciding what to do since I can't do

what I would ideally like to do.

- Gotcha.

Understood. - Yeah.

- Yeah, it's like that internal thing for filmmakers,

for artists probably in general is just the money and fund.

- Yeah.

- We're not asking for the money.

People who surely, you're in it for other reasons,

but you need- - Absolutely.

- I mean, in the modern world anyway.

And I do think I've noticed that lately, a lot more people,

and this could be partially because of the pandemic,

I don't know, but lately,

I've noticed a lot of people bartering,

especially with other artists in their communities,

just kind of bartering out.

If you can do this for me, I'll do that for you,

and just kind of go in that way,

and I think that, again, that just goes back

to that power of community.

I mean, it doesn't work for every need that you have,

but I'm always like, let's do this more, let's do this more

because, I don't know, it builds something,

it builds for all of us.

So Angela, I want to ask you one thing that I noticed

about your work and when you do your photo shoots

for your braid art, you always have kind of a set.

I mean, it's not just a picture of someone in a chair

and you've done their hair, it's their whole production.

And I can see the poster behind you

with those marvelous costumes.

And so in "Hello, Rain," one of the things

that stood out to me visually rather,

was the production design, and C.J. was saying

that they shot the interiors in the studio,

but it just, the colors, the coordination, all of that,

and I wondered if you could talk about that a little bit

from your standpoint of just the importance

of the significance of production design

and all of the things that go around,

not just the actual piece of the art itself,

but like all aspects of the context that you create.

- Well, what I do, it's not just me,

it's the whole team, so if I create something.

To do a photo shoot for me personally,

it can take anywhere between two to three months,

because once I've created the look,

I then have to contact the photographer,

we got to talk about the lighting,

you've got to talk about the backdrops,

and with the makeup artist, we'll have to go

over all of the makeup looks, and then you have to be

on a team when it comes to selecting the right model.

So once we've got the whole team on board,

you then have to construct like a vision board,

so on the day in the studio,

everybody kind of knows what they're doing

so that they flows, and from the look one, look two,

look three, look four, everything will flow.

So most of my personal photo shoots,

I'll be the one that kind of decides,

"Okay, I want the lights in this way.

I want the backdrop, this color,

and the model, you're wearing this looks first,

the make up could be this look first,"

and I always, 100% always tell a model,

never come to a set with makeup on all your own jewelry,

because your own jewelry,

you're gonna have to take it off anyway,

because it doesn't look good in a professional image,

or even in a movie, if a model or the actress

is wearing her own jewelry, for me personally

it doesn't work, and the makeup,

because the hair, what I do, it's kind of out there already.

So the makeup for me, it has to be kind of more

on a neutral, natural tone,

so you're not having powerful hair, powerful clothes,

I mean, you got powerful makeup.

So the makeup for me, has to be toned down,

and sometimes I will bring on set,

like the first put your clothing line,

which you see in the backdrop behind me,

the model, she's actually wearing clothes made

from hair extensions.

So a full production, it can take a long while

to even put a photo shoot together,

and the photo shoot can last

between four to maybe eight hours,

but the preparation for the photo shoot can take anywhere

from two to three months, sometimes four months

just to put a shoot together.

- Wow. - So everyone

has to come together and be on the same page.

- Wow.

- So a lot of work, a lot of work.

- Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, but then it shows, I mean.

- Yeah.

- In "Hello, Rain," I found that that was very striking,

like the color palettes.

- Yeah.

- The way that they were integrated together,

for each one of the women, each one of the witches.

- Yeah, they all had an individual identity,

but while I was saying before,

that's my personal photo shoot,

but if I'm doing anything for a client,

it's similar setup, but it's more

of what they tell me that I need to do,

and making sure the client's needs are met,

and then I would have to then go

and instruct the rest of the team.

So they're similar, but they're different.

They serve so different.

So you have to understand the client's perspective

of what they want.

- Gotcha. - That's a lot of work.

- Yeah, I see, I see, my goodness.

- Yeah.

- I mean, I think it's something that if you flip it,

when people don't give time to that, then it shows.

You can see, and it's very lively in the final product.

- Yeah.

- When the commitment is made and that resources are given,

it really pops.

So Yna, I wanna ask you, why did you become an actor?

- I didn't choose,

the arts came to me, I didn't choose art.

And in my life at time was so, so, so sad,

and art became a really, really, and take me.

I was a dancer always, but it was a dance my way,

and

a man, Hudis Ilea come from Haiti asked me to play,

to have a role in theater in Nevada.

- In theater?

- Yes, and step-by-step, I met people, in live,

and I became what I am today, actress, and many things.

- Wonderful, so I don't know that I knew that,

that you started as a dancer.

- Yeah. - Yeah.

So then you moved to theater and now-

- Yes.

I like pictures,

I can use my eye to learn, to create,

I took pictures too. - Nice.

- Yeah, I took picture, I can read in pictures.

I can find some details, strong details,

deep details in pictures.

- All right. - Movies too, movies too.

I realize that some years, we didn't have money

to have a filmmaker and waiting for money as everybody,

and I put my rushes,

and I, "Yes, let's go for..." [Yna chuckling]

And we kept it. [Yna laughing]

- Right. - Yes.

- I like that spirit.

So we have a couple of questions from the chats.

The first one is for Alain,

and the audience member has asked

if you could talk about the costume design

and inspiration in "Battledream Chronicle."

And they also asked, "Is it based all at all,

in Martinican culture or pulling from sci-fi sources?"

- I would say both, I would say both.

There was a costume that came

from what we are used to seeing video games.

When the play "Battledream," it's mostly something related

to sports, sports yields, and what we see with Sabroe,

we've Meghan Strange.

Yep, we've Meghan Strange.

It's much more related

to science fiction,

but I wanted to had an element from our culture

that is the madras

for the hats.

So she has a madras and that is in the story

that is reserved for the leader and-

- Let me just ask you, so madras is the fabric?

- Yes, yes. - So madras fabric.

So that's reserved for the elite, for the ruling,

the leaders?

- Exactly. - All right.

- It's a traditional fabric in Martinique,

so that's something that you're going to see

for celebration, for dance, in touristic place too,

and in our history, that is a fabric

that really define our culture,

and there is a language for the heart because in the past,

the heart was used to represent your marital status,

your relationship status, based on the number of points.

[panelists laughing]

So in the story, there's three points showing

that she's faithful to her nation.

And in real life, the three points means

that the person who was married and she was not looking.

[panelists laughing]

- Spoken for her.

[panelists laughing]

- And these sides, everybody from Multi-Monde,

they are in something that is more ceremonial,

a bit more religious, dark and something kind of evil,

and

Syanna, when we see her the first time

in her kingdom, she's dressed

in green because I wanted to show

that she really stand with the power of nature.

The power of nature is important for her,

and it's a very positive and neutral coddle,

and I wanted to represent her this way.

So mostly, it's about that for the costumes.

- Awesome, wow, that's really fascinating,

how you integrated both Martinican culture

and a sort of high tech interpretation of sports uniforms,

as well as these other meanings, like the symbolism there.

One of our other questions from the chat,

and I'm gonna throw this to you, C.J.

"Where did your motivation and inspiration come from?"

So I think that they mean as a filmmaker in general,

not just about this film.

- Okay.

Keen much to where I come from, all around me.

That's where my motivation comes from.

I look around me and I see boundless stones,

unexplored stones everywhere around me

whether it's in Nigeria or here.

I like to look at it this way, West Africa,

it's like these creative of blackness as it would seem.

So it's like everywhere you look, there's a story going on,

whether it's in the history or whether it's in the present

or whether it's in the way of life, the people, the culture.

For example, here in Benin Republic,

people talk about the voodoo, right?

And like the Westerners talk about voodoo.

Here, it's not voodoo, so for one here, it's vodun.

and it's not this black, demonic thing that the Western

has make it out to be, it's the people's way of life,

it's the culture, it's the belief system.

So why shouldn't I talk about that?

Why shouldn't I make a film about that?

Why shouldn't I tell those stories?

So those are really the things that motivate me

ever since I started making films.

Even my first film was "Ojuju," which was a zombie film,

and I wanted, on the lining textual, as it was to say,

"Okay, you guys have your old version of zombies

but this is what I understand zombies be,

based on where I come from and the culture."

So I never used the word zombie, I used the word ojuju,

which is the word seeped in the culture where I come from.

So like it's always been my motivation to find stories,

and even the film I shot here is called "Mami Wata"

and it's based on the mermaid goddess.

- "Mami Wata."

- Yeah. - Yeah.

- It's the mermaid goddess of West Africa

is called Mami Wata,

and she even transcends beyond West Africa.

I wouldn't be surprised, in Martinique they know Mami Wata,

I wouldn't be surprised.

Like if you go to, there all over diaspora,

they might have a different name

for her. - Sure.

- But she's no pretty much everywhere.

And so that was the movie I just made.

And so like, I might tell different stories,

but they're all connected in the sense

that it's this West African universe.

- Sure, and I mean, I think that's one of the beauties

and the strengths of Afrofuturism though,

is this interpretation of the future and its possibilities

through the lens of whichever aspect

of the diaspora culture is yours,

or that you're interested in, that you're drawn to.

So we have this explainer video

that's a part of the festival, "Afofuturism One-on-One."

It's a about 15 minute video,

and that's one of the things that we talk about

is that we have this,

the sort of line of interpretations

from Yoruba of, well, in the states it's been called vodoun

or vodun, and also Centuria that had these similar aspects.

I mean, within the diaspora,

where people were colonized, enslaved,

there's this integration of Christian ideas or imagery

with the indigenous spiritual practice,

and that was the way that people were able

to sort of disguise it so they wouldn't be punished

for their beliefs.

So I think that's brilliant.

It's brilliant that you're consciously

and mindfully drawing inspiration

from that very, very rich part of the world.

That's amazing.

So one of the other questions,

and I'm gonna throw this to you, Alain,

"How has the evolution of technology and digital media

changed the landscape for artists and filmmakers?"

- In Martinique or more globally?

- I believe they mean globally in general.

- The technology, I say that computers

are faster than before, and the tools lowers

to make more things than before, it's more affordable too.

For me, what enabled a lot of things was the price

because when I started my career in 2000,

when you wanted to edit a film, you had to buy avid station

and it was costing as that was the cost of a car.

It was extremely expensive. [Alain laughing]

And so it was not possible to get that for everyone,

and that was making things extremely difficult.

There was also the "30 Millimetre"

that was really making the film making process

very expensive and complicated.

With the technology, with the progress of technology,

we have been able to create films directly in computers

or for example, with DSLR, now, with our phones.

We are able to produce things that would be impossible

15 years ago, and that gave us more possibility to express

and much more possibility to bring a lot of new narratives

because we didn't have the money for many reason,

'cause there's reason, just economic reason,

but there's also reason where discriminatory reason

why we didn't have the power to express,

and now this technology enabled us to bring this new topics

to everyone.

So the technology is really changing a lot of things

and at least we can express them.

- Yeah, it's exciting, right?

I mean, I don't know about in the Caribbean or in Europe,

or in the continent, but in the States,

we now have film festivals,

there is an iPhone Film Festival,

and we've had not a whole lot,

but we have had some feature films that were in competition

in major festivals that were shot on iPhone

and other smartphones.

So yeah, in terms of making the playing field more level,

everybody has stories,

but now more people can get those stories out.

So another question from the chat,

and this one is directed to Angela,

they're curious to hear from you, Angela,

about the way that technology and digital media,

or maybe just technology has changed your craft at all,

or affected your craft.

- When I first started, when I first started my craft,

it was a learning curve for me because I wasn't sure

on the direction I was going.

So back when I started in 2000,

it was like braiding had taken off

and natural hair had taken off,

but it wasn't as well popular as it is now.

So when I started, I was getting a lot of people

saying to me, I'm not gonna survive in the industry

just by doing braiding on natural hair,

which to me it wasn't anything negative,

I took it as something that, well, something positive,

because back then, people were more doing relaxing,

they're more doing these.

So 20 years later, and for me personally,

technology, and the way I do hair now,

it has changed a lot because I'm self-educated,

I taught myself how to do the braiding,

and now there's a lot more resources available to me now

than when I started 20 years ago,

in terms of hair companies.

A lot of the times now I don't even purchase the hair.

So back then I was spending my own money to purchase hair,

so that was a bit harder for me

to continuously quote collections out,

but now I hardly buy hair,

and hair companies will send me hair

just to see what I can do with the hair.

So it's changed a lot, it's changed a lot

from back then to back now.

Now, the way technology is

and the way I've done the hairpieces, they last forever.

They're like hats and you can take them on and off.

- Great. - They're durable,

they last for a very long time.

So I feel like from now to then, it's changed a lot,

and the world is your oyster, anything he can do,

you can achieve it, but just don't let people say to you,

you're not gonna survive or you're not gonna make it.

If you believe in what you're doing, keep pushing forward

and then you will see in the long run,

you can still survive and you'll still be standing.

- That's what we like to hear, keep pushing.

- Yeah, can you hear me?

- Isn't there anything that will help how much you go

from being told that you'll never survive,

to the point where people are giving you resources

to see what you can do with it as an artist?

- Yeah, yeah, it was crazy

because there was one hair company,

and a lots of burnish in order for me to survive

in the industry because I started pretty late in life

and nobody knew who I was,

and there was already a lot of established artists

and hairstylist in the industry, so I had to find a way

to fit myself in the middle of all of them.

So I thought, "Okay, well, they run hair competition,

braiding competitions, all these competitions in the U.K.

let me enter them and see what can happen.

So the more I entered and the more I kept winning

is the more people were noticing what I was doing,

and there's more, the hair companies

was noticing what I was doing.

So they were approaching me to ask me to do work for them,

to help with their branding and their packaging.

So if I had given up when people were saying to me

I wasn't gonna survive, 20 years later,

I wouldn't be doing hair now,

I must have really be doing something else.

- Right.

- So it's, you just have to follow your own path.

Yeah.

- So I've gotten the signal that we're almost out of time,

so I'm going to ask each one of you in 45 seconds,

just to leave our audience with something,

and I'm gonna tell you in advance,

I'm gonna have to cut you at 45 seconds

so we can hear from everybody.

So let's start with C.J.

- Yeah.

[C.J. laughing]

Put me on the spot there.

[panelists laughing]

I just wanna say, let's be open to new narratives

coming out from Africa

because now, we've unleashed the cracket,

so let's be ready, let's be ready, they're coming.

- All right, well, thank you.

Alain.

- Yeah, well, I have to say

that we can do a lot of things now and with the tools

that we have now.

There are a lot of free tools for animators

to create new stories and that can promote our visions,

our culture, and the actors and the artists

in our community, and I believe that in the future,

the future is going to be much more interesting to see,

because we are going to be the one who are being seen,

and we're not going to watch the world,

we are going to give this world.

- Right on.

Thank you.

Yna.

- Sorry, we have everything, the past, the present.

We can go in beliefs, we can create movies

with old, new technologies, we have all the power

to tell about us, about the mix,

the travels during years and now, and what we are,

what we are, what we are doing with what we received

and what we are able to do for us and for community.

All the community, every community, we are people,

just people.

- Nice, thank you very much.

And Angela.

- I feel we need to be more supportive of each other.

We need to stand together.

Even though we have our own separate journeys,

we need to be more supportive of each other

and help the next person as much as we can.

Everyone that inboxes me

on any form of social media platform, I always reply.

So we'll have to stand together,

we need to support each other a bit more,

and we'll have to an understanding of the next person

and what they want, some of what their needs are,

and try the best way possible that we can to help them

and reach out to them in their times of need,

in their times of struggle because I never had that

during my times of need and my times of struggles.

I'd like to pass that on to the next generation.

Thank you.

- Absolutely, thank you very much.

Yes, pay it forward,

and that's something you're absolutely right

that we all need to do, because we're stronger together,

for sure.

I'd like to thank each and everyone of you for being here

and for being in conversation,

but also for giving us your time

and sharing your experiences with us and with the audience,

we really appreciate that.

If you like to find Angela, you can Google her,

Angela, A-N-G-E-L-A Plummer with two M, P-L-U-M-M-E-R,

and then if you'd like to find Yna, her first name is Y-N-A,

and her last name is B-O-U-L-A-N-G-E.

And so Alain and C.J. you can find them on their own,

but you can find the films on allarts.org.

So look for "Hello, Rain" by C.J. Obasi,

and "Battledream Chronicle" by Alain Bedard.

And so I encourage you to check those films out,

check out the rest of the films in this festival,

it's there for you and "ALL ARTS" and "WNET N.Y.C."

is they are public media, so these films

are streaming for free.

This is public media and it's there for you, for the public.

So thank you very much, a very special shout out

to our tech crew at allarts.org

and "WNET 13" we appreciate you, and to all of the audience,

thank you, for being here with us,

and so we will see you next in July,

with the next filmmaker conversation.

Thanks to everyone, have a wonderful evening,

and yeah. - Thank you.

- Yeah. - Thank you.

[panelists laughing]

- Yes, bye-bye.

- Good bye. - Bye.

- Bye. [Celia laughing]

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