Planet C

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.

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, and has collaborated with the director Robinson Devor on three films, two of which, Police Beat and Zoo, premiered at Sundance, and one of which, Zoo, screened at Cannes. In the fall of 2018, he directed his first film, Thin Skin, from a script he wrote with Lindy West and Aham Oluo. He has also written for the New York Times, Cinema Scope, Tank Magazine, LA Weekly, Nest Magazine, e-flux journal, and C Theory.

Artist Cinemas presents
Zia Moharjerjashi, The Charcoal Sky: Chapter 5 | Planet C: Week #6
Monday, July 19–Sunday, July 26, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Saki Mafundikwa, Shungu: The Resilience of a People | Planet C: Week #5
Repeat screening July 26, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Charles Mudede and Roxanne Emadi, Twilight of the Goodtimes​ | Planet C: Week #4
Repeat screening July 26, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Stephanie Syjuco, Body Double (Platoon) | Planet C: Week #2
Repeat screening July 26, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer | Planet C: Week #1
Repeat screening July 26, 2021
Saki Mafundikwa

is the founder and director of the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA), a design and new media training college in Harare. His book, Afrikan Alphabets: the Story of Writing in Africa was published in 2004.

Zia Moharjerjashi

is an Iranian-American filmmaker hailing from Seattle, a city that has served as the primary focus of his work. He has shot and directed acclaimed music videos for Macklemore, Blue Scholars, Jake One, and Common Market, as well as the 2007 mockumentary short Manoj with standup comedian Hari Kondabolu. In 2015, he wrote and directed the award-winning short Hagereseb, and is also the cinematographer and director of an ongoing storytelling series, The Charcoal Sky. He is currently in post-production on his first feature film, Know Your Place.

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, and director of the feature film Thin Skin (2018).

Alex Rivera

is a filmmaker who’s been telling ground-breaking Latino stories for more than twenty years. He is the director of the feature films Sleep Dealer (2008) and The Infiltrators (2019).

Adam Sekuler

is a filmmaker, curator, educator, and editor based in New Orleans. Screening in forums and film festivals throughout the US and internationally, his many alternative films strike a delicate balance between stylization and naturalism, creating a poetic and lyrical form of visual storytelling. His feature length documentary Tomorrow Never Knows (2017) won the Radical Empathy Jury Award at the Chicago Underground Film Festival where his film 36 Hours (2019) also won the Carolee Schneemann Award.

Stephanie Syjuco

works in photography, sculpture, and installation, moving from handmade and craft-inspired mediums to digital editing and archive excavations. Recently, she has focused on how photography and image-based processes are implicated in the construction of racialized, exclusionary narratives of history and citizenship. She is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Planet C 1–6 Contributors
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