Asili exuberantly and innovatively reminds us of the legacies of Black thinkers, activists, and artists.Esmé Hogeveen, Brooklyn Rail
Nozipho McClean, Eric Lockley, Chris Jarell, Julian Rozzell Jr.,
When Ephraim Asili, known for his short experimental films, turned to feature-length film making, he set this hybrid film in his hometown of Philadelphia. The Inheritance draws on his experience in his twenties as a member of a Black collective and on the histories of the MOVE liberation group, notoriously bombed by the police in 1985, and the Black Arts Movement. An ensemble of actors creates a “speculative reenactment” of his activist household, with cameos by real-life MOVE members Debbie Africa, Mike Africa Sr, and Mike Africa Jr, and poet-activists Sonia Sanchez and Ursula Rucker. Asili employs his own collection of Black art, photos, posters, books, and music, as well as archival footage, which together comprise a complex personal and public cultural inheritance. The film also references Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (Asili calls it “a critique and an homage”) through its formal experimentation, including bold colors and a mix of scripted scenes, direct address, improvisation, and quotations, but it distinguishes itself by enacting an ongoing history of Black activism and artistry.