Name: M. Asli Dukan
Hometown: Newark, New Jersey
Latest Project: “Resistance: the battle of philadelphia,” an online series about Black citizens who take action against tech-savvy police occupation and oppression in West Philly.
Why You Should Care: Dukan turned her radical politics and love of futuristic fiction into a career that documents and builds on the legacy of Black speculative fiction. That commitment comes through most clearly in “Resistance: the battle of philadelphia,” a web series that debuted online today (September 7).
Dukan, attributes her political consciousness to her stepfather’s teachings and to attending school with the children of writers Amiri and Amina Baraka (including current Newark mayor Ras Baraka). “I wouldn’t say I grew up, ‘woke,’ but ‘conscious’ of the issues African Americans face,” she says of her Antiguan and African-American household. “These issues have always been on my mind, and that became part of my goals for my artwork.”
The future filmmaker was also transfixed by science fiction. She began writing about an imaginary alien society at age 12 and studying the work of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (“Wild Strawberries”). Her artistic and political ideas came together in her late teens when she read Octavia Butler‘s work. “I didn’t know anything about the term ‘Afrofuturism’ at that time. But by the time I was in graduate school in New York City, I had read pretty much everything that Octavia had written up to that point.”
Dukan went on to interview Butler, who died in 2006, and other Black speculative fiction writers such as Samuel R. Delaney and Tananarive Due. This footage became her in-progress documentary, “Invisible Universe: A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction.”
“For a long time, I was searching for the proper amount of money to help me finish the project," says Dukan, who started making the film in 2011. "But in the meantime, I just kept on shooting. If people were coming to my area, on book tours or for conferences, I made sure I’d get out there to get interviews. Consequently, over the years, I really became an archivist of what eventually came the emergence of Afrofuturist culture.”
After moving to Philadelphia in 2014, Dukan became involved in various protests against racialized police violence. The "Resistance" series soon followed. “I started to think about the MOVE bombing and the history of resistance to police brutality in Philadelphia and decided to bring those themes together in an Afrofuturist narrative.”
Dukan enlisted co-writer Alex Smith, actress Jennifer Kidwell, composer John Morrison and producer Sara Zia Ebrahimi to build out the six-part series set in a West Philadelphia besieged by occupied by police and surveilled with drones. Residents use orally administered technology while participating in resistance acts.
“Resistance” features real shots Dukan took with her iPhone of police cars flashing their blue-and-red lights throughout the quickly gentrifying West Philadelphia. “As a filmmaker, I often walk around with my own equipment and shoot my environment with the idea that it might end up in a project,” she says. “I’m a Black woman, and most people just let me go about my business—especially when I’m just using my phone. I use that my advantage to very specifically get the kind of things I might need in the future.”
Dukan funded "Resistance" with institutional grants, crowdfunding campaigns and personal donations. She hopes to make at least two more seasons of “Resistance” that could live on a paid platform. She also plans to finish “Invisible Universe,” with the added context of “Black Panther."In the meantime, she keeps plenty busy with her other projects, including a new senior lecturer post at The University of the Arts and “Skin Folk,” a horror film anthology based on Jamaican-Canadian author Nalo Hopkinson’s short story collection of the same name. "She’s of Caribbean descent, like me, and I really love her writing," Dukan explains. "That is in development until I’m ready to shoot it."
Stream every episode of “Resistance: the battle of philadelphia” via the YouTube channel for Dukan’s production company, Mizan Media Productions.