In the past, WE dreamed of this future… In the future, WE dreamed of this past…
In 2003, independent filmmaker, M. Asli Dukan, set out to make a documentary about the 150 year history of Black creators in speculative fiction (SF) books and movies. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she was about to document a major movement in the history of speculative fiction. A movement where a growing number of Black creators were becoming an effective force, creating works that had increasing influence on the traditionally, straight, white, cis-male dominated SF industry. However, while these Black creators imagined better futures for Black people within their fictional works of SF, in reality, the everyday, lived experiences of Black people in the United States – e.g., the rise of massive inequality, the prison industrial complex, and police brutality – stood in stark contrast. She began to wonder if these phenomena were related.
Told through the ever-present lens and off-screen narrator voice of the filmmaker, Invisible Universe will explore this question by examining the work of Black creators of SF through the ideology of the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, which addresses the systematic oppression of Black lives. Since she began the documentary, the filmmaker has compiled an extensive interviewee list of Black writers, artists and filmmakers of SF who have been creating works where Black people not only exist in the future, but are powerful shapers of their own realities, whether in magical lands, dystopian settings, or on distant worlds. In addition, she has documented an ever-increasing number of academic, community and arts events dedicated to the work and critical analysis of Black SF, as well as building connections between the creators, thinkers, organizers and fans. In the past decade, the filmmaker has documented the cultural shift around Black SF and its explicit connections to Black liberation. This documentary explores the idea that in a world of capitalist exploitation, anti-Black oppression and state violence, Black creators are speculating better worlds as a means of resistance and survival.
The documentary will also consider how “Black Speculation” is rooted in the history of “Black Struggle” in the United States by exploring two previous eras of Black creators speculating about Black lives through the genres of SF. The first era occurred during the nadir of African American history in late 19th and early 20th centuries, when slavery, war, lynchings, race riots, disfranchisement and segregation inspired Black writers to pen narratives about international slave rebellions, secret, Black governments and powerful, long lost, African kingdoms. The second era occurred during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the work of Black writers of SF seemed to extrapolate on the possible futures that would occur as a result of the successes or failures of the Civil Rights or Black Power struggles. This documentary will explore how this current moment, which the filmmaker considers the third era of Black Speculation, compares and contrasts with the earlier two eras.
This timely documentary includes rare interviews with Black writers of SF like Samuel R. Delany, the late Octavia E. Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, actors like Nichelle Nichols and Wesley Snipes, cultural organizers like Rasheedah Phillips and the AfroFuturist Affair, academics/artists like John Jennings and Nettrice Gaskins, social justice workers/artists like adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, as well as numerous other filmmakers, artists, academics, archivists, and fans. This one-of-a-kind project is essentially an archive of a “Who’s Who” of Black speculative fiction.
In March of 2003, producer/director, M. Asli Dukan attended a two-day conference at Howard University in Washington D. C. entitled, A New Frontier: Blacks in Science Fiction, which included a panel organized by Dr. Gregory Hampton. Scheduled guests were Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson, at the time, five of the six major Black science fiction authors in print (the sixth being Charles R. Saunders). Ms. Dukan, a long-time fan of speculative fiction, recognized that this event was an important and historical meeting of the minds, worthy of not only archiving, but an event that could also serve as the beginning of a documentary project on Black SF writers that she would produce. Ms. Dukan eventually reached out to Dr. Hampton and received permission to document the event, thus beginning the Invisible Universe journey.
And now in 2015, though the independent journey has been long, the scope of the history that Ms. Dukan has collected, really as an archivist, is truly invaluable. From documentation of most of the first Black writers of SF, to documenting most of the key conferences and conventions in the history of Black SF around the country, to some of the last interviews with Black writers of SF, she has literally created her own archives to pull from for the project. It has truly been a labor of love!
M. ASLI DUKAN:
MS. DUKAN is a director, producer, editor and media arts educator. She graduated from The City University of New York with an MFA in 1999, where she received the best editing award for her thesis film, Sleeping on a train in Motion. Her speculative fiction (SF) short films have screened at several film festivals around the country including in Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, Seattle and in New York City. She has been awarded several media grants including most recently the Leeway Art and Change grant in 2014. In 2000, she founded Mizan Media Productions where she has produced and directed several music videos, including Boot for Tamar-kali and Do You Mind for Hanifah Walidah, which debuted on LOGO TV in 2008. She is currently in post-production on two feature length documentaries – Invisible Universe, about the history of representations of Black people in SF books and movies, and Songs for Nina, a music and travel documentary, in collaboration the Black Rock Coalition, and set in France. Her next project is the feature length anthology horror film, Skin Folk, based on the book by award winning SF writer, Nalo Hopkinson. She also hosts The Invisible Universe Vlog Series on Youtube, which is dedicated to topics related to the history of Black SF.
Mira Steinzor is a freelance videographer and still photographer. She was born in Burlington, Vermont and currently lives in New York. She attended the BFA Film and Video program at the City College of New York, where her thesis film “The Sorceress” won an award for best technical production. She continues to work as a head shot photographer, videographer for independent and commercial short films, and retoucher. Mira enjoys shooting digital and analog, especially on her Mamiya 645 medium format camera. In her free time she enjoys cooking, drawing and traveling. She has travelled to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Paris. She loves to be inspired by the city she lives in and the many people she encounters in her work.
Terence Taylor is a native New Yorker working from Gowanus, Brooklyn as a writer, producer, editor and motion graphics designer for both East and West coasts. As a freelancer he’s written, produced and edited interstitial material and on-air fundraising for WNET/Thirteen and WLIW/21, plus extensive video editing and motion graphics for other clients. He’s created motion graphics for two feature length documentaries — “Fabulous!” — a documentary on the history of gay cinema for the Independent Film Channel, and “The Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela” which aired on POV, and for an IFC documentary series, “Indie Sex”. He produced, edited, and designed motion graphics for Emmy-winner Eva Zelig’s documentary “An Unknown Country”. He also designed the logo for “The Big Bang Theory”, which assured his geek credentials. In addition to his work in video, as an author Terence has published the first two novels of his Vampire Testaments trilogy, “Bite Marks” and “Blood Pressure”, as well as several short stories, the latest in a new anthology, “WHAT THE #@&% IS THAT?”, arriving in August 2016.
I’m an experienced graphic designer and art director, passionate about creating visual experiences for brands. Most of my experience is in the social media world, where I’ve worked for several agencies and small business to create content for multiple social platforms.