Nerdy Independent Filmmakers Bringing Color to the Small Screen

Poster for Kibwe Tavares' short live-action/animated sci-fi film JONAH
Poster for Kibwe Tavares’ short live-action/animated sci-fi film JONAH

It’s Summer! Which means movie season! Which means a lot of blockbuster movies with big-name casts and star directors, and…well…not a lot of color on the screen.

The New York Times however has recently pointed out that 2013 is actually “A Breakout Year for Black Films”. And indeed with films like Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and Baggage Claim coming out this year, there are at least, according to the New York Times, 10 Black films coming out just this year.  How many can you name?

Right.  Not many of these films have the same blockbuster acclaim and hulaballoo of the bigger, flashier films coming out this year. And what kinds of movies pull out the most flashy to get the biggest crowds? Superheroes! Sci-fi! Fantasy!

It’s been a big sci-fi year too. In this age of the geek we’ve got at least 25 sci-fi or superhero films coming out this year, and fans are even already getting excited for 2014. We already took a look at the “State of Black Heroes in Science Fiction” last month, noting that only two science-fiction or superhero movies this year feature minority characters as leads – Will Smith’s big flop After Earth and the upcoming Machete Kills. 

And we’re not the only ones looking at the state of minorities in sci-fi. Looking specifically at film,  Melissa Harris-Perry recently sat down with some top Black geeky talent and thinkers, including Tananarive Due, Baratunde Thurston, Michael Skolnik, Tim Reid, and Ava Duvernay  to discuss the state of black geeks and science fiction, particularly in film. While people like Due and Duvernay are working hard to bring Black film to the world, unfortunately, aside from Will Smith’s big flop After EarthBlack-led sci-fi film is hardly on the map. The same can be said more generally about the state of minority-led geeky film.

mhpshow
Tim Reid and Tananarive Due on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show

Debates have been had and fingers have been pointed… at creators, at audiences’ tastes, at the studios.  Certainly it’s a complex combination of factors. Nonetheless, there are many independent projects, like those below, that prove that creators are out there creating and fans are helping them bring their work to larger audiences. Here are just a few creators doing some seriously interesting work and bringing a little color to science fiction worlds…

Kibwe Tavares is looking to the future through the lens of the past and socio-political situations around the world, and his movies are flipping beautiful. Here’s his newest 3D mixed animated/live-action films called Jonah, about a young man with big ambitions and a haunting commentary on tourism culture.

JONAH from Factory Fifteen on Vimeo.

And if you liked that you’ll love his short Robots of Brixton. Like, share, follow, talk! Get this man to the big screen!

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Known for the 2008 independent film Half-Life, director Jennifer Phang returned with a short film Advantageous in 2012 as apart of her Future States series. Now she’s looking to turn it into a feature-length film.


Exploring a futuristic dystopia where overpopulation has created a depression-laden, hyper-competitive world, Advantageous follows a mother through her decision to undergo a dangerous medical procedure to secure her daughter’s future. It’s a look at how women fare in this troubled new world. Jacqueline Kim plays the mother Gwen.  Kim’s got her own nerd cred. She played Sulu’s daughter in Star Trek: Generations and has had appearances on Xena: Warrior Princess. With over $28,000 and 25 days to go to reach its goal on Kickstarter, they need your support. Kim and Phang are a killer team, and the short is flipping beautiful! But don’t take my word for it, take the 20 minutes to see for yourself, go check out the short film first.

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And speaking of Tananarive Due

Having met their pre-production donation goals, and with $558 towards their post-production goal of $12,500, Danger Word is on its way.  Based on a short story by Tananarive Due and Steve Barnes, this short zombie film tells the story of a grandfather and his granddaughter trying to survive in this horrifying new world. Read an interview about the film at Shadow and Act, and donate!

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Recently funded on Kickstarter, Vimana is a sci-fi fantasy film to-be by newbie filmmaker and USC student Faroukh Virani

early movie poster for Vimana, a sci-fi film to-be by Faroukh Virani
early movie poster for Vimana, a sci-fi film to-be by Faroukh Virani

Virani is a long-time film lover influence by films from both Eastern and Western cultures. Following the story of an Indian space crew on a one-way mission to a deep-space planet, Vimana spawned out of his desire to “see more films from India that look into the unknown depths of space, and the impact technology has on humans.” You can watch the trailer here.

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