Artist Cinemas

Planet C

Convened by 
Charles Mudede

With films by Alex Rivera, Stephanie Syjuco, Adam Sekuler and Karn Junkinsmith, Charles Mudede and Roxanne Emadi, Saki Mafundikwa, and Zia Mohajerjasbi; and essays by Charles Mudede written in conversation with the filmmakers

“In 1987, I walked into the Rainbow, a cinema house in Harare, Zimbabwe, sat in a half-filled theater, and watched what was to become, for me, the greatest visualization of a spacecraft (a US military dropship) descending on an alien planet. The movie: James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). The sequence: stars above, ambient planet below, the sound of army snare drums, the abrupt release from the mothership, the violent shaking of the soldiers and civilians, the breaking from the alien clouds, the stabilization of the spacecraft, the images of the planet’s surface on a monitor, the smooth landing and deployment of the tank. 

Because this sequence is baked into my being, I decided to call my contribution to the Artist Cinemas series Planet C. It too involves the descent to a cinematic world that is certainly alien to you but happens to be of my own making. This world, Planet C, has a history. It began taking shape in 1977, when I watched my first movie in a theater (Star Wars at the Guild 45th Theatre in Seattle, Washington). It matured during the ‘80s, hardened during the ‘90s, and, since the 2000s, is the home of everything that relates to films (making them, watching them, writing about them). 

The Galactic Empire is here on Planet C, and so is the vividly virid vegetation of postcolonial war cinema. There’s a wasteland of dead nuclear reactors, and lasers that can detect the collision of black holes. And we have cities in the dust. Cities with the rubble of buildings that were once part of a short-lived experiment with public housing.  Planet C (Claire? Charles? Cinema?)  has its fair share of disaster Edens.

The films I selected for the series capture, in one way or another, aspects of my cinematic world. Alex Rivera’s science fiction film Sleep Dealer (2008), for example, is really a realistic retelling (or dub) of Star Wars (1977), my first movie experience.  Stephanie Syjuco’ Body Double Platoon (2006) appropriates one of the five films, Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), that shaped my mid-1980s movie-watching years in Harare, Zimbabwe. Adam Sekuler and Karn Junkinsmith’s Handford Reach (2009) is a short musical that takes place in an area that has obsessed my cinematic imagination since I first visited the Tri-Cities, Washington in the 1990s (nuclear waste, radioactive rabbits, LIGO, and more). My documentary with Roxanne Emadi Twilight of the Goodtimes (2010) concerns the urban catastrophe made sublime by Blade Runner (1982); Saki Mafundika’s Shungu: The Resilience of a People (2009) concerns a similar catastrophe but at a national scale (2009); and Zia Mohajerjasbi’s The Charcoal Sky (2017) transforms the Good Times catastrophe into souls drifting through the green-tinged light of the Pacific Northwest.

This is Planet C. As a filmmaker, I hope it and the one who inhabits it, myself, become for you much like that plantoid in the ninth episode of the second season of the original Star Trek, “Metamorphosis.” These purple trees, that green horizon, and me, a floating cloud of consciousness needing the company of humans.”  

—Charles Mudede

Planet C is a program of films and essays convened by Charles Mudede as the seventh cycle of Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film. Planet C will run from June 14 through July 26, 2021, with a new film and essay released each week.

Film, Dance, Capitalism
Video Art, Documentary, Science Fiction, Racism, Housing & Real Estate, Financial Crises, Time, Revolution, Landscape
Return to Artist Cinemas

Charles Tonderai Mudede is a Zimbabwean-born cultural critic, urbanist, filmmaker, college lecturer, and writer. He is senior staff writer of The Stranger, a lecturer at Cornish College of the Arts, and director of the feature film Thin Skin (2023).


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