An Afrofuturist film featuring George Clinton, Juan Atkins, Goldie, DJ Spooky, and A Guy Called Gerald.
Directed by British artist, writer, theorist John Akomfrah, The Last Angel of History is a pioneering work in the film genre of Afrofuturism released in 1996 by the Black Audio Film Collective just two years after the term “Afrofuturism” was first used by Mark Dery in his book Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture. Somewhere between science fiction and cinematic essay, the 45-minute film explores the relationship between Pan-African culture, electronic music, intergalactic travel, and computer technology through a semi-fictional narrative centered around a “data thief” on an archaeological dig…
“Two hundred years into the future, the data thief is told a story… find the crossroads… you’ll find fragments, techno-fossils… Crack the code and you’ll find the keys to your future. You’ve got one clue, and it’s a phrase: Mothership Connection.”
Clearly way ahead of its time, the film plays out a lot like how surfing the web feels in modern times with images of Pan-African life from different periods of history cut together (multiple tabs open style) with extraterrestrial iconography and interviews with black cultural figures including writer Kodwo Eshun (Author of More Brilliant Than the Sun), astro-funk pioneer George Clinton, astronaut Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., techno originator Juan Atkins, science fiction writers Octavia E. Butler and Samuel R Delaney, Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols, jungle legend Goldie, and others.
A few reviews of the film:
• “A tantalizing blend of sci-fi parable and essay film [and] a fine primer on the aesthetics and dynamics of contemporary Afrofuturism — it was the first film to include the then-recently minted term.” — New York Magazine
• “A 45-minute meditation on black consciousness whose dense, almost chaotic weave of images and ideas offers space travel and science fiction as metaphors for the experience of the African diaspora.” — Chicago Reader
UK-based arts and heritage institution Culture& wrote a great piece here and offered the following digital-historical context of the film:
• Only a few years before the film was made, in 1990, the first web page was served on the open internet.
• The Apple Macintosh OS operating system was launched in 1996, preinstalled on every Mac and we see one of those machines in the film a number of times.
• The then US President Ronald Reagan was dreaming of Star Wars and winnable nuclear war.
Watch The Last Angel of History in full below on YouTube:
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