Neptune Frost is a one-of-a-kind film that centers around Rwandans outsiders that escape to a dreamlike dimension to experience the ultimate freedom of expression. Though the movie lives in the imaginative and ethereal, its underlying themes about fluidity of gender, inequality, acceptance and societal dependence on technology are grounded in reality.
"We always wanted to create that voice for people to enter the world and see themselves, and be empowered by that," co-director Saul Williams tells A.frame. "That’s the thing, it was really about us creating a film, one that we yearn to see. And we know we’re not alone in that yearning and there’s power through representation."
Below, Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams share five of the movies that they took solace in and inspiration from to make the dystopian sci-fi musical Neptune Frost.
Where to Watch: HBO Max
Directed and written by: Wong Kar-wai
In this multifaceted romance crime drama, the camera moves like a protagonist. It's almost like a dancer of an ensemble choreography. We love the wonderful actors, the use of colors, the way they captured a moment of He Qiwu's life where time seems elongated, it's the heart of youth and a jukebox musical.
Directed and written by: Shahad Ameen
This is a dark fairytale that centers on the effects of patriarchal oppression in a small fishing village where every family has to give up one daughter to a sea creature or risk impending doom. It's about control, domination, being denied agency, and going as far as the obligatory sacrifice of their female babies to the ocean. Further along in the film, the characters learn self-love and humanity. It's timeless. We love the format, the waves, the soundscape, the isolation of that world, and the choice to use the fantastic narrative via fairytale is a powerful statement. Scales blew our minds with the liberties Shahad was taking in order to tell that story.
Directed and written by: John Carney
This film revolutionized our approach to a musical. The songs in this film occur in tandem with relatable life situations, particularly in the lives of musicians. It helped me appreciate the fact that there is more to be explored in the romance musical genre and this inspired us in our attempt to bring other possibilities to light. It's magical in the way that the director makes outside scenery come to life. And, of course, Theodoros Bafaloukos' Rockers carries this off pretty well too!
Directed by: Sidney Lumet | Screenplay by: Joel Schumacher
Today, many of us would be surprised to learn that The Wiz was not a hit at the box office. Yet its colors and soundtrack extended its lifespan to the present where it still stands as the ultimate convergence of African American music and performance on screen. With a soundtrack that features the composition and production of Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross and Ashford & Simpson, in addition to onscreen performances by Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, and Nipsey Russell, it has continued to serve as a bridge between generations.
The Wiz was a huge inspiration for Neptune Frost, especially the way the lights are, metaphorically, speaking to the audience in that film. It was very informative. We did a tribute to the movie in some scenes where the lights are changing while the costume colors are changing and vice versa. But as a whole, the film inspired us in music, color, costume and dimension.
Directed and written by: Marcel Camus
This tale of Orpheus set in a favela in Rio de Janiero during carnival season is so rich with dance and music that its soundtrack, composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa, remains a fresh a take on bossa nova and samba while dabbling in the experimental in the way dialogue and ceremonial spirit overtakes the recording. It's a soundtrack we still listen to on a regular basis. There's a richness not just in the storytelling, but in everything.