The Inheritance explores Black liberation with a collective of young, Black artists defining the term through their own experiences and the works of their ancestors.
Directed and produced by Ephraim Asili, “The Inheritance” is a visual metaphor for more than just tradition. Based on Asili’s experience in a Black liberation group, the film’s set in the present within a West Philadelphia home but brings in the past through footage of the Black separatist group, MOVE, who were victims of the 1985 police bombing in Philadelphia. The ensemble cast features Aurielle Akerele, Chris Jarrel, Michael A. Lake, Eric Lockley, Nyabel Lual, Nozipho Mclean, Aniya Picou, Julian Rozzell Jr., and Timothy Trumpet Jr. Former MOVE members appear in the film as well. The film first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year.
In the first minutes of the film, we meet Julian (Eric Lockley) and his girlfriend Gwen (Nozipho Mclean) who open a chest owned by his grandmother filled Black works in music, literature, and politics. Soon, they find themselves delving into the history of the items with other Black socialists and artists. The home Julian inherits becomes an oasis of Black pride deemed by everyone as”The House Of Ubuntu.” The liberation unit proceeds on a journey of learning in par with the audience learning Black radicalism’s meaning in history. The radicalism was often viewed as a “threat” in the name of white supremacy. Many twenty-first century films based on Black empowerment tend to focus more on the pain of being empowered, and to an extent, The Inheritance” does but brings in joy, humor, and understanding along the way.
The film plays on an unorthodox mise-en-scène. Primary colors, for instance, become eye-catching scene landscapes. Vibrant orange, yellow, and red hues serve as backgrounds when characters speak. Bold African patterns and historic Black phrases paint the space of the group’s home. Characters look straight at the camera and speak aside. It’s an unconventional language in film but aids the gripping emotions. The film’s playful style is deeply influenced by Jean-Luc Godard’s “La Chinoise.” Asili stated in an interview, “It reminded me of my days living in a collective, but at the same time seemed to be coming from a totally different place in terms of class and culture. I was also struck by the form. It was not a “story” about a collective. It was immersive.”
“The Inheritance” leaves no aspect of the African diaspora unscathed. Tackling blackness tends to be one-sided in media. Films don either the “African-American” point of view or the “African” point of view. Yet, “The Inheritance” combines it all in a non-sequential time-lime. Expelling history not only in facts and footage but in words.