American jazz musician Sun Ra in a publicity photo promoting the 1973 reissue of his album “The Magic City” through Impulse! Records and ABC/Dunhill Records Credit: Public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sun_Ra_(1973_publicity_photo_-_Impulse_ABC_Dunhill).jpg

Documentary filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, whose current documentary “Attica” is shortlisted for an Academy Award has announced that his production company Firelight Films is developing a new documentary about the other-worldly experimental jazz musician Sun Ra. The film, entitled “Sun Ra and the Rise of Afrofuturism,” will feature the only surviving member of the original Sun Ra Arkestra, 98-year-old Marshall Allen who is set to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Afrofuturism city-wide event series in New York City with the current Arkestra lineup.

Sun Ra is hailed to be one of the early creators within the genre of Afrofuturism. “Anchored by archival footage of Ra and his performances as well as interviews with musicians who performed with him over the years, ‘Sun Ra and the Rise of Afrofuturism’ will live up to the second half of its title by exploring how the theory and practice of Afrofuturism evolved, diversified and developed from Ra’s foundational concepts through interviews with contemporary writers, visual artists, musicians and curators,” Reelscreen reports.

This documentary is very timely as the world begins to recognize the importance and poignancy of Black historical figures who have been largely left out of the Western music and arts canon. This is largely due to the post-George Floyd international awakening toward racial justice and the newfound desire to reexamine and update historical documentation that includes Black innovators and visionaries.

“Without Sun Ra, it is hard to understand George Clinton, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, Ras G, Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings, Moor Mother, Black Panther, Lovecraft Country, [or] Afrofuturism itself,” expressed Nelson. “Ra was part mystic, genius, showman and possibly alien. He was one of the most prolific, creative and visionary musicians the world has ever known.”

The Criterion Channel has released a series, “Black History Rising: Documentaries by Stanley Nelson,” featuring five of his films, “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,” “A Place of Our Own,” “Freedom Summer,” “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and “Tell Them We Are Rising.” His most recent documentary “Attica” explores the five-day rebellion at upstate New York’s Attica Correctional Facility in 1971, which can be streamed for free on Showtime’s YouTube channel until the end of Black History Month.

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