African anti-colonial cinema, join Uhuru’s black working class film series

In recent years, the tradition of African anti-colonial cinema has reemerged in a variety of forms: motion pictures (feature-length films), television series, documentaries, and other forms of cinema, including theater and experimental film. This wave of new cinema has been aided by changes in film production that have made it possible to produce film. However, the force behind this swell is the anti-colonial activity of the masses of African people and other colonized people.

African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) Chairman Omali Yeshitela was once asked about his idea of revolutionary culture, and he replied that it was simple: culture that is for the revolution. Point 75 of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement’s (InPDUM) platform the Revolutionary Democratic Program (RNDP) calls on African cultural workers to get off the sideline and join the revolution “by demanding reparations that would contribute to a cultural revolution, promoting the liberation and unification of Africa and African people and the implementation of this Revolutionary National Democratic Program.”

Paul Robeson made some very useful films in the 1930s and 1940s. During the high tide of the African Revolution of the 1960s, African revolutionary culture boomed. It was expressed in music, clothing, film, literature, hair, and elsewhere. Entirely new African art forms such as Afrobeat, Reggae, and Funk emerged during this moment. The African cultural productions during that period didn’t merely reflect African liberation struggles, they worked for African Liberation by visualizing the material contradictions Africans faced.

African revolutionaries used these works to engage the masses and point the way forward. This is true of films like “The Battle of Algiers” (1966), “Burn!” (1969), “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” (1973) as well as the wealth of films by Ousmane Sembène of Senegal and the African revolutionary film collective that he influenced called the L.A. Rebellion film movement or the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers.

Uhuru Movement engages this work

InPDUM has engaged the historical anti-colonial cinema as well as the recent works. As part of our St. Louis community rallies, we have organized screenings of films such as “They Cloned Tyrone” (2023) and “Judas and the Black Messiah” (2021). In San Diego, we have organized the Black Working Class Film Series in which we screen and discuss these films from an African Internationalist perspective. We have shown important films such as “Bush Mama” (1979), “Bless Their Little Hearts” (1983), “Daughters of the Dust” (1991), “Sankofa” (1993), “Lumumba” (2000), and “Footprints of Pan Africanism” (2017).

These screenings are an important form of anti-colonial work. They take the productions out of the control of the colonial bourgeoisie as well as the purely intellectual arenas of the African petty bourgeoisie in a process that Secretary-General Luwezi Kinshasa has called “de-bourgeoisification.” Organizing anti-colonial film screenings is thus an important part of building the anti-colonial free speech movement. Using these films as outreach tools allows us to break through the colonial superstore. They build our membership base. These events allow us to point a clear way forward for the masses.

Colonial media reflects the Uneasy Equilibrium

In “An Uneasy Equilibrium,” Chairman Omali Yeshitela noted how the colonial media reflected the crisis of imperialism and loss of identity. Superman and Captain America once reflected the rise of American imperialist might. The colonial media is now saturated with films about purges, post-apocalyptic fears, and zombies. Zombies first emerged in colonial cinema as justification for the U.S. occupation of Haiti. These images reflect the death of colonialism. Films such as “The Hunger Games” and shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” reflect the fear of the colonial elite. They noticeably imagine an end to the reign of colonial capitalism and the overturning of the colonial mode of production as a return to feudalism. Inadvertently, this reflects the correctness of African Internationalism. Colonial media is incapable of showing the way forward. Only African Internationalism can do this.

African film and TV project an anti-colonial future

The colonial question is present in so much of African media being produced. These films and shows do not always show the clear way forward and sometimes obscure the actual material contradictions at play. Yet, they show scientific analyses of the colonial oppression of African people. Importantly, these films show the importance of African community control, resistance, and revolution. This underscored the importance of Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” (2013) which offered a needed counterpoint to the “talented tenth” fantasy of “Django.” McQueen, an African filmmaker from London, uses his films to expose the brutality of colonial oppression. His first film “Hunger” (2008) chronicled the 1981 hunger strike led by Irish martyr Bobby Sands. In 2021, McQueen released the important limited series “Small Axe” and the accompanying documentary series “Uprising.”

The 2018 film, “Sorry to Bother You” focuses on the workplace exploitation of African workers and comments on the role of the African petty-bourgeoisie as well.

African cultural workers Boots Riley and Donald Glover have moved from hip-hop to motion pictures to produce anti-colonial films and television series. Boots’ “Sorry to Bother You” and “I’m a Virgo” as well as Glover’s “Guava Island” and “Atlanta” have used Afrosurrealist techniques to expose colonial-capitalist domination of African people. They explored important topics such as reparations, black community control of housing, police and education, immigration, and neocolonialism. Jordan Peele’s most recent film “Nope” (2022) exposed Hollywood’s support for settler colonialism. It is exposed that the alien was not an alien. It had once lived in the unnamed region of Southern California.

“They Cloned Tyrone” is an important film as it states clearly the role of the colonial State in creating the conditions of African people. In the film, Jamie Foxx’s character, Slick Charles, underscores the gravity of the situation stating it wasn’t a small operation, it was in fact “major league”: “It’s Uncle-MFing-Sam.” The colonial question is inescapable, even in the middle-class series “Black Cake” produced on Oprah Winfrey’s network OWN.

Organize the Black Working Class Film Series, build InPDUM

These new works recognize the African working class’ distrust of the church, corporations, police, restaurants, and other institutions placed inside our communities. Colonialism is the explicit cause of the horizontal violence that Africans face in this cinema. Some of these films critique integrationism.

“They Cloned Tyrone” does this well. It directs the pimps, drug dealers, and sex workers to move beyond the position they have been placed in and get politicized. These films do not simply visualize African oppression at “the point of production” but instead at “the point of the bayonet.” For example, “Sorry to Bother You” focuses primarily on workplace exploitation while “I’m a Virgo” shows that it is all aspects of African life that are oppressed and exploited. Despite the advanced nature of this recent cinema, it needs InPDUM to bring clarity to them. It needs African Internationalism.

Where do the masses of our people go after viewing the films? We must use these films to show that our organization provides the way forward. Many of the older films are available on YouTube as well as other cloud storage. This is true of the Paul Robeson films, the film “Burn!” and many of the LA Rebellion films such as “Bush Mama.” Another great documentary that could be used is “Concerning Violence.” Organize the Black Working Class Film Series as a tool to bring clarity to these works, grow InPDUM membership, and build the anti-colonial free speech movement. Report your screenings to The Burning Spear events page and InPDUM leadership

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