Say What? Afronauts: Africans In Space!
I had the great pleasure of watching the Late Night Shorts showcase during this year’s Dallas International Film Festival. The segment was a compilation of fantastically eccentric set of films from new talents.Waiting with bated breath for the shorts especially since I was anxious to see young African filmmaker, Frances Bodomo’s Afronauts (2014).I must gush that I love the title of the film: Afronauts. After first hearing it, “I see what you did there” quips in my mind.
A girl, Matha Mwambwa along with a cute as a button cat and her team of space trainers get ready to be the first to land on the moon. An ambitious group of Zambian exiles, they collectively act to execute this purpose.With minimal words spoken, they go through the initial preparation to complete the Must-Do-List for Human Space Flight. The practice sequences for Matha shown include launch and landing,dealing with motion sickness, being rolled down hills in 44-gallon oil drums or cut the rope of a swing at its highest point to simulate weightlessness etc… Bodomo’s direction is subtly well crafted with gray visuals, the dreamlike qualities of the world Matha and her enthusiastic partners partake in. It’s a story essentially about making one’s dreams a reality no matter outsiders’ notion of its futility.
Believe it or not, this film was inspired by true events of post independence Zambians, led by visionary schoolteacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso who aimed to reach space before America and Russia did. He stated then,”Our rocket crew is ready,” noting that his aspiring company of space explorers had been gearing up for their interstellar journey in the headquarters of the academy he’d set up on the outskirts of Zambian capital Lusaka. Unfortunately but not surprising the program wasn’t deemed seriously by the government of the newly independent Zambia, failed to take off; a $7 million grant Nkoloso said he’d requested from UNESCO never came through.
Bodomo has stated some of her reasoning in pursuing a galvanizing story such as this:
“We are interested in telling an imagined history, a history for those who—resourceless—are forgotten to the pages of written history.
We are interested in following characters that have not been able to find a home on earth and are therefore most attracted to the promise of the space race.
We are interested in talking about lack of access to science, and different definitions of technological advancement.
We are interested in exploring modern-day myths: the iconic place of the Apollo 11 touchdown in our collective consciousness, and the importance of myth in an enlightened age of scientific exploration.”
Afronauts is Frances Bodomo’s pre-thesis film at the prestigious NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program. Her previous film, Boneshaker (starring Oscar Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis , premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Check your local events so you can watch her films and other great shorts!
Here’s a short interview about Bodomo’s background and current projects.