Imagine sinking into a comfy sofa, wearing pajamas and watching movies with your close friends in a living room. Sistah Sinema distills this precise mood in their public screenings of films produced by queer women of color. Founder Isis Asare fondly recalls early Sistah Sinema gatherings — friends meeting at houses to watch films like The Aggressives, a documentary about New York City lesbians. This became a weekly dinner tradition and has since grown into a massive film screening movement that encompasses over 11 U.S. cities and counting.
When I saw this ad for Futuristic Queerness, I knew that I absolutely had to go. The Seattle screening was hosted on January 11 at the Life Enrichment Bookstore, a fantastic space dedicated to African-American books and gifts. Angela Hughes and Sylva Jones spearhead the Seattle-based events, welcoming visitors and calibrating AV equipment before the show. The seats quickly filled with about 20 audience members and the lights dimmed. Get ready to launch into a future imagined by queers of color! Here are some highlights from the evening.
Fiction of the Fix by On The Hill Studios
Ever wish that you could take all the great parts of your past relationships and combine them into the perfect partner? Errrr, well that’s exactly what August does in this adorable and slightly unsettling film. August is feeling lonely, and builds a SUPER EX by combining the belongings of her former lovers in a bathtub. Once she lights a candle with a mystical sigil painted on it, the new lover comes to life!
However, these Frankenstein builds are short-lived, since they disappear once the candle burns down. I’m pretty sure this says something philosophical about the nostalgia of finding your ex’s belongings while cleaning, and how fleeting past relationships can seem. Heavy stuff! You can watch the entire bittersweet drama unfold at the filmmakers’ website.
The 6th World by Nanobah Becker
Main premise of this film: The Navajo Nation is colonizing Mars and planning to grow hydroponic corn on its surface. I loved the set design, special effects, and costumes in this short—everything about it was so creative and aesthetically pleasing.
The 6th World presents a great “what-if?” tale, with a female Navajo astronaut Tazbah Redhouse leading a colonization mission. It’s also very much a cautionary tale of what happens when you lose sight of your cultural roots, and how history can clash with technology. Navajo spirituality plays a central role in this film, expressed through a prayer scene that is truly sublime. Be sure to watch this film online at the FUTURESTATES website!
Hollow by Lisa Robinson
Illegal immigrants are being hired by corporations to become human EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES for secure data. This is after a company wipes the last two years of your memories from your gray matter. Holy shit. This is a great film if you’re a fan of dystopian sci-fi, somewhere along the lines of Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, and William Gibson.
Cinematography perfectly captures the stifling atmosphere surrounding Iris, the queer protagonist who is in a destructive relationship with Zana, an ultra-privileged, carefree white girl. A corporate agent aggressively tries to recruit Iris to become a Neuro-Messenger, knowing that Iris is in dire straits as an unemployed illegal immigrant. One of my favorite quotes: “Your identity is fluid. Part memory, part web identity, part who you want to be.” Makes it sound like this future could be around the corner, if we let it get outta control.
Would you give up your last two years of memory for a job that provides extreme economic security? Watch “Hollow” over at the FUTURESTATES website.
Odds and Ends by Michelle Parkerson
This “new-age Amazon fable” was set in a world that reminded me of Tank Girl and Nickelodeon’s Space Cases. We follow Lt. Loz Wayward as she rushes around space, accompanied by a sassy, shit-talking computer system called M.A.B.E.L. She’s caught in the middle of an intergalactic war, and there’s a whole lot going on in this film. Black Amazonian warriors scream, “I owe them some death!” at a species of fedora-wearing white supremacists. Will Lt. Wayward find her way back to her older female lover amidst all of this strife?
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things about Sistah Sinema gatherings is the post-film discussion for people who stick around. Angela and Sylva facilitated a very thought-provoking conversation that helped us process the films we just watched. I scribbled notes on all the tiny (and not so tiny) nuances and meanings that I had totally missed. (I would love to watch Star Trek with this group!). Angela and Sylva made sure that everyone got a turn to speak, and they kept us on track with gentle reminders about time. It was thrilling to watch strangers build community over film analysis, then trade Facebook pages/phone numbers at the end of the night! Seattle freeze be damned. This was one of the warmest and most welcoming queer events I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.
Sistah Sinema will be hosting special Valentine’s Day events across the U.S. in February, followed by a film about queer kinship in March. Get over to the Sistah Sinema website or Facebook page to keep tabs on screening locations and tickets!