See you yesterday [2019]

“Aren’t you too old to be playing with toys?”

I watched this as part of the WATCHERS club in December and it has taken me so long to process how great this film is!

Produced by Spike Lee and directed by Stefon Bristol, this 2019 film follows science geniuses CJ Walker and her best friend Sebastian as they prepare for a technology expo. They’re trying to crack the key to temporal relocation or TIME TIME TIME TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVELLLL. Then one terrible day, CJ’s big brother Calvin and his friend are leaving a party when two local kids who robbed a store run past them. The police mistake Calvin and friend for the thieves. Though not shown initially, we discover that Calvin is shot by them when he takes out his phone attempting to video the police as they brutality attack his friend. Grief-stricken, CJ throws herself into her work, thinking that she can save her brother. She and Sebastian fixes the tech and successfully jumps back a day, but there’s a catch. The wormhole is only open for a short time and she and her bestie have to get back to it before it closes. They jump and try to save her brother, but every time they do, they have limited time before the wormhole closes and changing the past causes unintended consequences.

I thought this was an incredible film. Whilst it is science fiction, that felt almost secondary to the social aspect of the film. I pre-judged the film from the poster. I didn’t know anything about it other than knowing it was about time travel and I mistook the film to be light-hearted. Boy was I wrong. The colourful and youthful poster made me think that it would be a childlike jaunt and I guess a part of me thought as I watched it that seeing as it focused on the future, maybe the future would be kinder to CJ and her family as they jumped further into the future but it just got harder and harder for them. I feel like the adult-type theme definitely speaks to current reality in USA. African American children are taught from a very young age that they need to be extra careful because racism is systemic. It’s so all encompassing that it is impossible to unpick it from positions of power like police, so African American parents teach their kinds from a young age what they need to do to stay alive. I don’t know about you, but my parents never had to warn me about the dangers of walking down the street, jogging or opening the door to my own house. African American children are not afforded the same right to a peaceful, innocent childhood like white people are. This film served as a poignant reminder of that and it was absurdly well done.

Really great soundtrack of BIPOC music of all different genres. I particularly loved the science montage to reggae. That was ACE.

Excellent cameo game from a certain someone (“Great Scott!”) It really felt like he was passing the torch to the next generation of time travel nerds.

So all in all, See you yesterday is a super vibrant and colourful film that you just never see the darkness coming but it is there everywhere, and it takes you like a kick to the chest. I loved that the film didn’t paint a Black mono culture. It showed how utterly diverse Black people are; the dialects, the food, the music`, the personalities, the histories, the heritage! Absolutely excellent film and really well done. I can tell this is going to be one that I will watch over and over and over.

Go watch it, yesterday,

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler [book]

“Books could be awesome mysteries to her, or they could be dangerous time-wasting nonsense”

CN slavery racism & also spoilers……

I just finished reading Kindred by Octavia E. Butler and I was really moved by it. This book is about time travel but it is so much more than that. It’s about slavery, race, class, love, power dynamics and the transformative nature of education. I have a LOT of feelings to unpack here and they are quite disjointed so please bear with me…

The story follows Dana, a 1970s black woman who finds herself transported to another time. She is drawn to a young, white boy called Rufus who she discovers is – SPOILERS – her ancestor. She realises that she must protect him at all costs for the sake of her bloodline, whilst trying to survive the antebellum/plantation (slavery era) south.

I won’t talk much about the story but am instead going to unpack the themes…

Slavery & education: In slavery times, it was discouraged/illegal for black slaves to be educated. Enslavers believed that educated black slaves were dangerous… Octavia also says in Kindred that “repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas” like liberty and autonomy and this is SPOT ON… I was reminded that education is an absolute privilege and something we cannot be complacent about. Even today, the disparity in levels of education benefits the (overwhelmingly white) elite, rich and powerful whilst minorities are not given the same consideration or opportunities. Racism and classism still exists today. Slavery still exists today around the world, which still impacts the lives of People Of Colour. In Britain, the government until very recently were still paying corporations for ‘loss of earnings’ caused by abolishing slavery in the UK, as if those corporations had any right to those earnings in the first place… I think that says a lot about how recent it all was, and how it is all just barely below the surface…

The book also made me think that it’s extremely important we know how grim history really is so that we can be better now and in the future, and how woefully inadequate history lessons at school are to speak honestly of our past. Unfortunately, history looks to white-wash over reality so that we don’t realise how abusive colonialism/slavery was and the generational trauma that it caused. Instead we are taught little ditties about Kings and Queens…

Style & Technology omissions & Power: Regarding the style of this book, I know that others have criticised it for being too conversational and also not explaining how Dana came to travel through time or why. Firstly on the style of writing, Dana is an author and mentions writing her story down so I truly believe the style is a reflection of that. We’re hearing the account from Dana’s perspective as if she is reading out the account she wrote down. Secondly, I really enjoyed not having the technology side put on a platter for me, and indeed I believe that this speaks to Dana’s lack of power. There are frequent references to power dynamics throughout. I believe that if Dana knew why this was happening, if she knew the science of it, she would be able to stop it but she is powerless so she must accept her fate and the reality that she may never know what happened or why.

Love: And lastly, this book told of great love. The love between mother and child. Love beyond limitations of time and space. Love that protects. Love that bonds. And on the flipside, we see the abusive, possessive, dysfunctional love that the Weylins exhibit both among themselves and towards Neil, Alice and Dana. It was inferred that Dana should be thankful for this so-called love, that she was being treated differently because of it, but love cannot exist in such a power struggle. I really think that Dana believed that the education and love she brought would be enough to change history, but did it? Great change only comes to those who want it, to people who are open to accept love and have a willingness to change which comes from an awareness that they are somewhat broken. The irony that the book was called Kindred was not lost on me. Kindred has many meanings. It, of course, means family but it also means similarity as in ‘kindred spirit’. However, there was little kindred spirit between Dana and Rufus. Instead she found family and love in those around her who had a similar, shared trauma that she had and by rejecting the so-called love Rufus would go on to give her, she really risked her own survival.

Questioning my own ancestry: REWIND. For those who don’t know me and my background, I’m mixed and sci-fi was something I reached for to make sense of feeling this otherness. I know that my ancestors/relations were definitely slaves and I believe there may have been slave overseers in my black bloodline (though to the naked eye, I am white passing). I personally felt very uncomfortable feelings reading this book because of my own bloodline but there’s a lot of growth to be had in uncomfortable feelings so I really am thankful for it.

In conclusion, I loved this book. It is profoundly important. Due to the intentional conversational style of writing, it makes it a super easy to read. I was touched by the love that came off of the pages, despite the traumatic story. It reminded me that I am privileged to be educated and I should never forget it, and it made me question my own ancestry and what I can learn from the past to create a better future. This book should be on the national curriculum.

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