Stars: Cheryl Isheja, Eliane Umuhire, Elvis Ngabo, Dorcy Ingell Rogamba, Bertrand Ninteretse
This Afro-futurist queer experimental allegory, helmed by rapper, poet and actor Saul Williams and Rwandan actress Anisia Uzeyman, is probably the most unique and challenging release of the year. Intersex character Neptune (played by two actors, Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo) is a runaway hacker. Matalusa (Ninteretse) is an oppressed coltan miner (coltan is a metal mainly utilised in electronics) living in a Rwandan village in the hills of Burundi, the village seemingly constructed from computer parts. They form an anti-colonialist computer hacker collective, which also includes characters symbolically named Psychology and Memory. In a show of joy and resistance they celebrate via dance, song and chanting, but their revels are threatened by an undefined destructive force, the Authority. This brief precis (full disclosure: cribbed from notes) doesn’t really do justice to the dream logic plotting and ineffable strangeness of events unspooling on screen in which chanted and sung dialogue is frequently out of kilter with events depicted. Ostensibly it’s a post-colonial examination of how technology and the rejection of binaries can be a liberating force against the forces of oppression, which also acknowledges the practical limits of such methods of protest. But other interpretations are possible and probably as valid. Co-director Uyezman doubles up as director of photography and beautifully illuminates her characters’ visages in blues and purples.