by Nuha Hassan
Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams’ Neptune Frost is an afro-futurist spectacle with poetic musical and groundbreaking themes. The film is set in Rwanda and Burundi and follows the story of Neptune (played by both Elvis Ngabo “Bobo” and Cheryl Isheja), an intersex runaway intrigued by a small village of hacktivist revolutionaries. They meet Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse), a local miner who deals with the death of his younger brother Tekno. In a technology-focused musical movie, both Neptune and Matalusa form a bond that reveals the boundaries of gender, technology, and class. The revolutionaries threaten to get rid of Western technology, but while Neptune Frost has interesting themes, the narratives aren't as interesting as the rest of the movie.
Lyrically, the movie focuses on an anti-capitalist and pro-connectivity message that binds everyone together. The music blends futuristic sounds and messages that feel like the elements are drifting and flowing through the movie. It’s a surreal experience and unlike anything most audiences would have seen before. It drifts from spoken word, hip-hop, and rap, and the hacktivist revolutionaries sing about ignorance within the system, social media popularity, and money.
In the world Uzeyman and Williams created, the characters greet each other with the phrase “unanimous goldmine,” as a way of eternal use of technological advancements. The village, in which the characters live, is decorated with makeshift technological equipment and scraps. In this discarded village filled with computers and hardware, the revolutionists sing, dance, and discuss the threats they will face from protesters, who endanger their very existence. They desire to be free from the system and have no problems singing songs like “Fuck Mr. Google” and “motherfuckers” out loud. For the hacktivists, apart from the danger they are in, it is more important for them to build a connection through friendship and romance.
However, while Neptune Frost presents complex themes and incredible set and costume designs, the movie doesn’t try to explain how the world came to that situation. It dives into the themes of exploitation of workers, colonialism, and the depiction of class, gender, and queerness. The movie shows how the system can be changed and subverted with the help of a community through love and support, but that’s just it. It seems as though the ideas were impactful but didn’t create a unique voice or rather, didn’t expand beyond what was already present.
Neptune Frost is a remarkable wonder of colours, ideas, and characters, who showed the meaning of love and support through the means of music. It depicts Black love in a completely different light, with emotional moments rather than pain and suffering. However, the narrative doesn’t seem interesting or captivating, what might capture the audience’s attention would be the world that Uzeyman and Williams created, that transcends emotion and genre.
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