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9 Must-See Black Speculative Short Films & Web Series

The critical and commercial success of recent films such as Fast Color, Get Out, Us, Attack The Block, Sorry To Bother You, and Black Panther emphasize one truth: there is an enormous, long-neglected market for onscreen speculative stories centering Black people.

The root reason for this paucity is the belief that stories about Black people are completely insular and niche, which is why the racist and idiotic notion that “Black movies do not travel well overseas” refuses to die a fiery death.

Never mind that Black speculative narratives are rarely greenlit by Hollywood, nor receive the marketing budgets and promotional support vital to cultivating markets outside the United States.

Black Panther is a notable exception. Yes, it broke overseas box office records. Still, besides being an excellent film, it also had the marketing power of Disney and Marvel Studios behind it.

So, what are Black filmmakers to do when they have stories to tell - especially if those stories are speculative in nature?

Most must produce their work independently. Unfortunately, this usually means working with very constrained budgets.

This is why media such as online short films and web series are so attractive to Black indie filmmakers. Those media allow for them to bring their visions to life and share them with audiences around the world despite working with limited resources.

The advancement of technology has been another boon.

With the current generation of computers, smartphone cameras, audio recording equipment, and video-editing software, a talented creator can produce projects comparable in quality to what is seen on television or in the cinema.

However, one of the most challenging obstacles Black indie filmmakers face is marketing and promoting their projects.

In my work covering independent genre shorts and web series at my site The7thMatrix.com, I have the privilege of covering indie, onscreen speculative stories, including those created by Black filmmakers.

These stories enrich speculative narratives by introducing fresh perspectives, raising provocative questions, and bringing unique ideas to the table.

The following Black speculative short films and web series are must sees for any fan of genre stories seeking original ideas and familiar genre tropes re-framed in creative and fascinating ways.

AVANT-GUARDIANS

Created by standup comedian and filmmaker Alesia C. Etinoff, Avant-Guardians is a seven-episode web series about Black women guardian angels.

The series follows Razz (Etinoff), a free-spirited guardian angel who is tasked with protecting a young boy destined to become the third Black president of the United States - if he survives adolescence.

Attempting to understand her human ward, Razz undergoes therapy with fellow angel Dr. Hanniel (Zainab Johnson). Each episode of the web series is a therapy session in which Razz and Dr. Hanniel explore the human condition with wit, razor-sharp insights, and lots of humor.

STATIC Shock

This short film epitomizes what “going viral” means. Created by filmmaker David Kirkman, STATIC  Shock is an unofficial homage to the titular electromagnetic teen superhero introduced as a comic book in the 1990s by groundbreaking Black-owned comic book publisher Milestone Media.

Static, AKA Virgil Hawkins (Maalik Shakoor), is a young man who is balancing his responsibilities as a high school student and his covert identity as a superhero.

Complicating his life is his contentious relationship with his father, who is running for city mayor against the corrupt incumbent.

Soon, Virgil’s public and private life begin to converge when his family and friends are caught in the crosshairs of his very dangerous enemies.

Made for only $3,000, STATIC Shock has garnered over 1.1 million views on YouTube primarily through word-of-mouth attention.

Kirkman is already working on extending his unofficial Milestone Media cinematic universe with his next project: ICON.

THE INVADERS

Created by Mark Cabaroy, THE INVADERS is a whimsical, all-ages, sci-fi web series about the only ones who stand between earth and an alien invasion: eight-year-old Angie Martinez (Catori Crawford) and her teddy bear Mr. Snuggles.

THE INVADERS is perfect for the young and young at heart. Young Ms. Crawford is adorable and precocious. The alien invaders don’t stand a chance against the young hero.

It’s unfortunate only 14 out of 25 planned episodes of this charming web series were ever made. The creation of quality children’s programming - particularly shows centering Black children and children of color - is always a welcome event.

ALWAYS NIGHT

Always Night tells the story of wealthy married couple Roger Banks (Harry Lennix, The Blacklist, Man Of Steel) and Valerie Banks (Delila Vallot, Coyote Ugly).

As the couple is preparing to share a quiet dinner, it soon becomes apparent they are having problems. Roger seems pensive while Valerie appears to be distracted.

Soon, Valerie reveals a shocking secret to her husband. It is a secret that will not only drastically affect their marriage, but possibly the entire world as well.

Created and written by Art Washington and Zachary Waterfire for BlackAmericanTV.com, Almost Night is a melancholy and intimate look at a married couple who have grown apart. The fact the source of the marital crisis is a fantastical one provides a nice narrative U-turn.

The project also boasts the engaging direction of the one and only Carl Weathers (Rocky, Predator)!

THE WATER PHOENIX

When Disney announced the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in its planned live-action The Little Mermaid remake, the racist backlash was immediate.

The pushback towards the casting of a Black woman as an imaginary creature from a just-as-imaginary undersea kingdom underscores the importance of having speculative stories where everyone can see themselves centered and represented.

The good news? You don’t have to wait to see the depiction of a Black mermaid onscreen.

The striking short film THE WATER PHOENIX tells the story of Anya, a mermaid who is captured and placed on display in a public aquarium.

One of the marine biologists responsible for her capture promises to set Anya free, but he reneges on that promise.

Determined to escape, Anya takes matters into her own hands in order to gain her freedom.

Created, written, directed by, and starring Bola Ogun (Queen Sugar), THE WATER PHOENIX is a gorgeous fantasy with a powerful message about self-determination and empowerment.

ARCHITECTS OF CRIME

This sci-fi/noir short from filmmaking siblings The Derrick Brothers is set in the seedy underbelly of near-future Los Angeles.

Rhonna Bennett stars as Roxanne, a cynical police detective with a checkered past. She is drawn into a far-reaching political conspiracy when she uses fringe science to help a city councilman retrieve buried memories involving a scandal.

Filmed on location in Los Angeles, Architects Of Crime is a mesmerizing mix of science fiction and gritty crime drama buoyed by flawed characters and the unique visual autograph of The Derrick Brothers.

MISSPELLED

Several years before the Charmed reboot was announced, a web series created by a Black woman was released featuring a coven of young witches of color.

Meet the witches of MisSpelled, created by and starring Lindsey McDowell (Netflix, To The Bone). The seven-episode web series follows five young women who are navigating their emergence into adulthood while also coping with the development of their potent magical powers.

The coven must band together when one of their own loses control of her powers and makes a catastrophic mistake.

MisSpelled is a winning combination of the female empowerment of the original Charmed television series with the counter-culture leanings of the cult classic film The Craft.

WHIPPING BOY

Whipping Boy is a stylish and stunning short reminiscent of the films of Stanley Kubrick.

Written by Aiah Samba and directed by Michael Chance, the short depicts a future where humanity has become addicted to advanced virtual reality technology controlled by two competing corporations.

The demarcation between the rich and poor is so acute the wealthy live above the masses in skyscrapers rising miles high into the sky.

Relying on communication mainly via VR, most of the elite lack the coping skills to deal with the stressors of daily living. So a most unusual… solution is created.

People begin to hire themselves out as “whips” to act as literal human punching bags for rich clients who feel stressed out and need a physical release.

One such whip, Ollie (Tongayi Chirisa), becomes caught up in a deadly conspiracy when a session with a client goes terribly wrong.

Aiah Samba’s dark and intelligent script is a scathing look at a future where technology and capitalism have pervaded our lives to a grotesque degree.

TOUCH

Written by filmmaker Shola Amoo, Touch is another short that uses science fiction to critique our increasingly complicated relationship with technology.

At first, the short seems to be about the blossoming romance between two unconventional people.

George (Alexis Rodney) is a man who has retreated to the countryside after the pressures of modern life lead him to make an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

While lost in contemplation walking through a field of wildflowers, he meets the beautiful and mysterious Jessica (Tanya Fear, Kick Ass 2). The attraction between the two is immediate, and soon they agree to rendezvous at the field several times a week.

But Jessica has a secret that I won’t spoil because it causes the film to make a sudden tonal shift solidly into the speculative realm.

What I will say is Touch raises provocative questions about using technology to cross moral and ethical boundaries to get what we desire.

These projects are just a tiny sampling of the diversity of speculative narratives available centering Black experiences. Whether they provide a unique spin on standard tropes or introduce new ideas and questions by exploring fresh perspectives, the bottom line is they enrich the genre in ways that are exciting and interesting.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Fantasy, Sci Fi

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