Trailer Premiere: Upcoming Ambitious Documentary Explores History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction

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April 20th 2017

invisible-universe-a-history-of-blackness-in-speculative-fiction M. Asli Dukan

A new look (trailer) at an upcoming, much-anticipated, ambitious feature documentary we've been following since this blog was launched, so I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with it by now.

It's a work-in-progress, although getting ever closer to completion, as the filmmaker heads into the final stretch.

A quick recap...

It's titled "Invisible Universe: A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction," and it explores the relationship between African Diasporic images and popular fantasy, horror, science fiction literature and film, as well as the alternative perspectives produced by content creators of color.

The documentary features interviews with major writers, scholars, artists and filmmakers and explores comics, television, film and literature by deconstructing stereotyped images of black people in the genres, revealing how black creators have been consciously creating their own universe.




M. Asli Dukan is the writer, producer and director, a New York City resident, and graduate from The City University of New York with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Media and Communication Arts in 1999.

The ambitious project has been in production since 2003, and continues to be in need of funding to be completed. It's a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. To make a contribution that will assist in the completion of this very necessary and timely film, and to learn a lot more about the film, visit its website here: http://invisibleuniversedoc.com/.

In the filmmaker's own words: "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 about 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 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 her 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."

Again, to make a contribution, and to learn a lot more about the film, visit its website here: http://invisibleuniversedoc.com. It's a necessary documentary that I believe we should all be very interested in seeing whenever it's complete, and if you agree, let's help it get made.

We interviewed the filmmaker in 2011 about the project. Read that conversation here.

To encourage your contributions, Dukan has released a new trailer for the film, giving us a glimpse at what to expect. Watch it below:


by Shadow and Act on April 20th 2017
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