What is left at the end of a festival? Award-winning films, Palme d’Or and then love. “Neptune Frost”, directed by the American Saul Williams and the French woman of Rwandan origin Anisia Uzeyman, was the most curious, generous and innovative proposal for this film festival in Cannes 2021. It is the story of a war that does not say without name and a love between an African hacker and a coltan miner on the run. All in a whole new afro-futuristic aesthetic.
This music film, which was shot in Burundi, was collected from the competition at Directors’ Fortnight and collects song, dance and poetry. And it turns out in many ways surprisingly close to the elements claimed by Julia Ducournau for her Palme d’Or Titane: world violence, the issue of identity and gender, an intersex aesthetic, the right to be different and the pursuit of elsewhere. But where Ducournau takes the monster and the monster, Neptune Frost relies on radically poetic and positive universes.
Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams
In this first film by Anisia Uzeyman, actress (she starred in Alain Gomis’ Tey) and French director of Rwandan origin, and Saul Williams, American poet, actor, musician and activist, the story is told through ethereal bodies connected by vibrations with other beings and intelligences. Neptune Frost makes extra-sensory perceptions hitherto unknown in cinema tangible, beyond human space-time.
“I was born in my 23rd year, after 22 years of war,” says a woman in glued braids at the beginning of the film, her face hidden behind a mask made of metal wires. We are invited to a funeral where the priest talks about the expectation of another life. Meanwhile, Tekno, a rebellious Coltan miner, must flee. Throughout the film, death will look at him, because he understood: it is the coltan that transmits the energy that circulates in computers all over the world. For him another reason to no longer suffer from the contempt of multinational companies.
“The cleaners will not let us go”
The Coltan mine appears in the form of a choreography of gestures, punctured by Burundian drums. With simple, but stylish and colorful costumes, the scene becomes as grand as the mine around it. This is where the wealth of others and the poverty of others are created. “The purifiers will not let us go,” sings the song.
It is a matter of suffering caused by a workforce exploited by neocolonialism. At the same time, an African hacker who is taking his independence wonders about the victory of the binary world. In an atmosphere of the end times, we observe an eclipse of meaning and a fire in the sky. Turn fluorescent wheels on the head of the hacker character, who assumes his intersex identity. Like the call from a distant planet, from another dimension.
“No return possible”
On board a boat we move away from the beach. Tekno, he puts on stilettos to go into a different identity. “No return possible,” says the song. We meet revived ghosts and the clothes of Afro-futurism. Everyday gestures are transformed into song, poetry, choreography. The swing between several worlds is surprisingly beautiful.
Another main character is an avatar that consists of recycled screens, computers and other machines. The motherboard is bleeding. The power of the subconscious grows, wisdom emerges: “What birth has separated, love will reconnect.” “Draw your dream and dare to live it.”
A dreamland born in cinemas
Welcome to the clairvoyant land, where “the mountains have not awakened” and a person is called “Psychology”. “I was born of sound. Sound preserves memory. ”
Here, in this society in search of a better future (goodbye “Martyr Loser King”), we break away from norms so that the various struggles against oppression can converge. To tell about these fights against Gafam (one song is entitled “Go shit Mr. Google”, another “The algorithm is justice”), the patriarchal society or corrupt politicians, all narrative forms are allowed. A dreamland born in cinema, Neptune Frost.