Blerd Film Club: Space is The Place

During the 1960s and 70s the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra attempted to gain a foothold in California. Even going so far to teach a class titled "The Black Man and The Cosmos," as Berkley. During that time he met film producer Jim Newman. Together they decided to create a film based on an experimental art piece. That film went on to become Space is The Place.

We start our film with Sun Ra on a mysterious planet full of Black people, he's been missing for 5 years. Using music he travels back in time to Chicago, specifically a club he used to play music in. He plays a game of cards with a pimp to determine the fate of the Black race before we jump to 1970, present day back then. 

Ra goes around trying to recruit young people to join his cult, or "new utopia." He's kidnapped and forced to listen to classical music by a group of scientists from NASA. While the scientist fail to achieve lift off at a brothel, Ra is saved by a group of local teenagers. At the concert an assassination attempt is made on Ra's life but one of the teenagers sacrifices himself. Ra saves him and begins putting Black people on his ship to live a new life. Other stuff happens, but you understand.

Sun Ra is a legendary Jazz musician due to his willingness to experiment with new technology. He was the first to bring electric keyboards, more than one double bass and even an electronic bass. What he did was mostly improvisational with his band The Arkestra. Despite that, his philosophy needs to be challenged.

This film is propaganda, even if people don't want to admit it. This was created not because Sun Ra had some grand vision, but because he was in a once sided battle of philosophies with The Black Panther Party. Sun Ra believed that their ideas of revolution and Black Nationalism would eventually lead to more bloodshed. Sun Ra believed that Black freedom could not come from integration with mankind and that true Black life exists on the edges of space. You see why this was one sided?

In the film there's a scene when Sun Ra enters into a Oakland, California youth community center. Inside the walls are lined with photos of Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, H. Rap Brown and other prominent members of The Black Panther Party. He then proceeds to tell the children that none of this is real and chastise them for repeating the values of The Black Panthers. Essentially he's depicting The Black Panthers as unruly children which he had stated were more concerned with the fashion and identity politics than actual freedom. This coming from a man who often dressed as if he were in ancient Egypt or an extra terrestrial.

This is not an attack on a dead man's character, but a simple statement of facts. This film was done, because he could, and he wanted to wag a finger at people who followed other ideologies. Speaking on Angela Davis he would once say her trial was the result of men ganging up on a defenseless woman and the real criminals are the men who taught her to think and behave the way she does. This, coming from the man who stated political activism was meaningless.

I get it, in 1974 this was the first of its kind. A science fiction film led by a Black men, because the women barely spoke. This is what people had been waiting for and it should be hoisted into the rafters of history. But, as I watch it now I can't rock with it. This is eighty-five minutes of a man dressed like King Tut improvising jazz music and telling Black people to give up their worldly possessions so that they may become free, while criticizing multiple Black ideologies that didn't fit his own. All while he's driven around in luxury and classic vehicles. 

It's cult leader nonsense on a basic level. Leave your monetary items and desires behind, but I'll keep mine. Don't dare look at those other people with their religions, philosophies and nonsense, just me. If we all come together, we'll head to space where there's a planet for Black people to rule. Sun Ra is the hand of god and and you must follow him for he can show you the light. Pay no attention to that man over there, he is a tool of the white oppressor, don't look at that woman, she is a temptress taught by radical men. Don't look at those panthers, they are revolutionizing their way to becoming myth. 

Space may indeed be the place, for some; but it is not a place that I want to visit. When Angela Davis said that she wants Black people to be free, but can't get free with all Black people, I felt that. There are simply some people that will have to be left behind because they have no problem tearing down other Black people, either for a difference in thought or because they view them as lower on some imaginary caste system.

I think Sun Ra's innovation when it came to Jazz music was incredible. I think making this early Sci-Fi film right as Blaxploitation was taking off, was a brilliant idea. I think this film serves as a catalyst of inspiration to so many things. Especially those in the Afrofuturism genre. But, it isn't for me.

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Blerd Film Club: Space is The Place Blerd Film Club: Space is The Place Reviewed by Darrell S. on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 Rating: 5

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