Neptune Forst (2022) ‘BUFF’ Review:

“I was born on a forgotten day
But, I own the night.”

Some films carve out a narrative so courageously ambitious from the get-go, that the viewer has an instinctive, immediate understanding that the course of the next hour or so is bound to be live-altering. Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s Neptune Frost, which premiered on the final day of the Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF), evokes a phantasmagoria of warring emotions, amalgamating themes ranging from capitalism and systemic corruption to gender and personal identity. Williams’ multi-faceted “MartyrLoserKing Project” is an ever-expanding artistic collage, consisting of three albums, one graphic novel, and a cinematic extension in the form of Neptune Frost, and the latter, perhaps, brims with unbearable raw honesty, even if the narrative follows a cosmic, otherworldly route to express the chasms of the socio-cultural, the political, and the personal.

The sheer breadth and nuances of the Afrofuturist movement are staggering, but at its core, it centers on multifaceted Black experiences in alternate and imagined realities, chiefly via a fictionalized form that mirrors our present reality. While Neptune Frost does have a narrative, the film is more of an experience that is almost spiritual, attuned to some sort of higher dimension beyond complete comprehension. Shot and set in Rwanda, the film opens with the narrator proclaiming that they were born in their 23rd year, which immediately sets the tone of the film: dense with allegory, rife with hypnotic, mesmerizing shots.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

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Neptune (Cheryl Isheja and Elvis “Bobo” Ngabo) undergoes a transformation both on a physical and spiritual level: they are an intersex hacker traveling realms, integral to bringing out change that hinges on ideas that are (necessarily) anarchic and anti-establishment. Elsewhere, Matalusa (Bertrand “Kaya Free” Ninteretse) witnesses his brother Tekno’s murder during a mining operation, who is casually killed by an overseer, as a human would stomp on an ant (the juxtaposition between Matalusa’s wailing and the beating of the drums are haunting). Their individual arcs meet, enmeshing into each other in a web of intergalactic simulation, bridging the gap between a parallel world and an analog one, just like our own.

Neptune Frost
Neptune Frost (BUFF 2022)

Although billed as a love story (which it most definitely is), Neptune frost is a commentary on a wide range of issues. Neptune’s intersexuality is a harsh reminder of the terrible persecution of non-binary persons in the country to this day, wherein they need to battle anti-gay laws on a daily in order to merely live out their lives. The fact that Matalusa is a coltan miner is also of great relevance, as coltan is deemed a “conflict resource” as the mineral wealth of the region has birthed years of violence and socio-political unrest, with capitalist structures vying for control and profit at the cost of underprivileged communities with little to no employment opportunities. The repercussions are staggering, as the war over colton has reached unprecedented levels, so much so that it involved eight African nations and twenty-five rebel groups, ushering in heartbreakingly high death tolls since World War II.

There are characters that further the narrative with the power of their allegorical purposes, such as Innocent, Memory, and Psychology, who play their respective parts in order to reclaim technology for progressive political ends. Neptune Frost flits between timelines, universes, states of being while etching a startling, electrifying picture that remains etched in the recesses of memory. The original songs throughout are intensely poetic, making one feel like they are experiencing a fever dream: what is existence, if not a muddled fever dream, wherein we come alive in moments of utmost importance? Love, of course, is the strongest invigorator, but so is resistance and revolution, and the communal effort for change. Neptune Frost is a master class in intersectionality, and the process of creating art while being ravaged by the cruelties of everyday life, which, maybe, can only be purged out via a bridge connecting two worlds — a motherboard.


NEPTUNE FROST premiered at the Boston Underground Film Festival on March 27, 2022. Tickets can be bought HERE



Neptune Frost Links – IMDb
Neptune Frost Cast: Cheryl Isheja, Bertrand Ninteretse, Eliane Umuhire
Country: USA, Rwanda

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