A film by Frances Bodomo
12 min | B&W | High Definition | NTSC |16:9
Status: In pre-production
It tells an alternative history of the 1960s Space Race; it’s July 16th 1969 the night of the moon landing. As America prepares to send Apollo 11 to the moon, a rag-tag group of exiles in the Zambian desert are trying to beat America to the same destination. There’s only one problem: their spacegirl, Matha, is five months pregnant. Afronauts follows characters that have not been able to find a home on earth and are therefore attracted to the promise of the space race.
This project is based on a true story. In 1964, immediately following Zambia’s independence, the dreams of space travel led science school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso to found a National Space Academy of Science, Space Research, and Astronomical Research in an old farmhouse outside of Lusaka. Nkoloso was so serious about the mission, he applied for a £7,000,000 grant from U.N.E.S.C.O. which never came through.
Nkoloso gathered together a disparate crew of a 17-year-old girl named Matha and two cats. He trained his potential astronauts by rolling them down hills in 44-gallon oil drums or cut the rope of a swing at its highest point to simulate weightlessness. He hoped to launch them into space before America or Russia succeeded in their own attempts. We do not know what became of them, other than that Matha became pregnant and was taken away by her parents.
Frances Bodomo reveals that she is interested in telling the story about those who—resourceless—are forgotten to the pages of written history, interested in talking about lack of access to science, and different definitions of technological advancement. Exploring modern-day myths: the iconic place of the Apollo 11 touchdown in our collective consciousness, and the importance of myth in an enlightened age of scientific exploration are also key motivations in the making of this film. Bodomo’s previous short film Boneshaker starring Quvenzhané Wallis premiered at 2013 Sundance Film Festival & is currently continuing its festival run.
This is a video of the story that inspired the photo series. The video below mocks the attempt for the space mission, but it served as an inspiration to many artists and filmakers:
Hinted in Alexis Madrigal’s blog post about Nkoloso, Old, Weird Tech: The Zambian Space Cult of the 1960s, is a sense of the end of liberation struggle, Zambia’s independence day celebrations and, perhaps, the same kind of naiveté, optimism and euphoria we’ve seen frozen and capsuled by photographers like Philippe Koudjina and Malick Sidebe in the black and white pictures they took of Malian youth in that hopeful time.
Find out more about this exciting Afronauts project and support it’s production at it’s Kickstarter page. To quote the young director, support young black/African filmmakers and bid farewell to “Hollywood-funded pity parties on film!”
Cine Kenya first discovered this innovative project over at African Digital Art.
Director: Frances Bodomo
Producer: Isabella Wing-Davey
Director of Photography: Joshua James Richards
Production Design: Feli Lamenca
Costume Design: Sarita Fellows
Ciné Kenya tumblr post here.