Sundance 2022- “Neptune Frost” Challenges a Binary World: Film Review

Film festivals’ ability to highlight burgeoning filmmakers and original films has become more essential than ever in an era where local multiplexes are bogged down by remakes and reboots. Without this year’s accessible Sundance, who knows how many would have had the chance to witness poet and first-time director Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s Neptune Frost. An afrofuturistic musical about the the slave mining trade, Neptune Frost is an unparalleled experience and one of the most unique films of the decade.

If one attempts to codify the narrative of the film, Neptune Frost essentially follows a group of computer hackers who escape from a coltan mining plant and attempt to take the technological power away from their oppressors. However, Williams & Uzeyman’s feature is one that defies convention, avoiding a typical three act structure to forge a poetic dreamscape for the silver screen.

While wholly different films, Neptune Frost is almost reminiscent of Sergei Eisenstein’s radical epic about the Russian Revolution, Battleship Potemkin. Released almost a century ago, Battleship Potemkin perfected the the cinematic concept of montage, or editing two separate scenes together to create a desired emotional effect in moviegoers. The experiment was an resounding success and montage is now used is nearly every form of visual media, from films to advertisements to Tik Tok trends.

Similarly, Williams & Uzeyman have built upon Eisenstein’s foundation and through showing a contemporary revolution of mining workers, discovered how to adapt a poetic stream of consciousness into emotionally-striking visual imagery. While you might not comprehend every moment of Neptune Frost, there are a plethora of moments and musical melodies (like the incredible tune “F Mr. Google”) that are enlightening and awe-inspiring. These seemingly singular moments combine into a comprehensive experience that will leave you contemplating days after watching the film.

Our society is often coded into two absolutes: winners or losers, good or evil, zeroes or ones. Neptune Frost acknowledges as much, “The master and the slave. The hardware and the circuit board. Their programming are the same.” However, Williams & Uzeyman vehemently challenge our binary society, creating a rich, cinematic world that relishes in multitudes.

The Silver Lining

Cedric Mizero’s costume designs in Neptune Frost are nothing short of stunning. Mizero recycles worn out computer parts and bicycle wheels to create a consistently unique style that adds immense depth to the world that Williams & Uzeyman fabricated. Even though it is only Mizero’s first film project, it wouldn’t be surprising if they become the heir apparent to legendary costume designer, Ruth Carter (Black Panther, Do the Right Thing).

Neptune Frost is a part of Sundance Film Festival’s 2022 Spotlight lineup. Tickets are still available for its second screening (Jan. 25th) here.

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