From 2010 to 2017, Asili produced a five-part short film series he titled “The Diaspora Suite,” which paired US and international locations in an exploration of the African Diaspora: Hudson, Harlem, Ocean City and Detroit; Ethiopia, Ghana, Brazil and Jamaica. Her 2013 film “American Hunger” featured Philadelphia, and that’s where Asili comes back here. A film shaped by Asili’s time in a black liberation group, “The Inheritance” features a scripted setting story about 20something Julian (Eric Lockley), who inherits his grandmother’s home in West Philadelphia . The place is a treasure trove of books, records, films, artwork, posters, magazines, and all manner of other cultural relics related to the African diaspora and the experience of black Americans. Asili deliberately shares the names of these authors, artists and activities by composing shots in which these books and records are centered on their own in the frame: Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Charles Mingus, Alice Walker, Stokely Carmichael, Ruby Dee, Angela Davis, WEB Du Bois, Max Roach, Nikki Giovanni, Margaret Walker, Calvin Hernton, Sonia Sanchez, Ursula Rucker (the latter two also appear in the film) – and these aren’t even half of whom “The Inheritance” refers.
You could build a whole program out of these “dark thought archives,” as Asili says in the film’s press notes, and that’s basically what Julian does. In a revealing moment, his first conversation with his girlfriend Gwen (Nozipho Mclean) includes his praise of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1986 film “The Sacrifice,” which did not interest him at all; when Julian delves into the work of so many black artists, however, Tarkovsky never returns. And with so much room on their hands, Gwen makes a suggestion: What if they open the doors of the house to roommates who are also interested in living together, spreading expenses, and devoting their lives to publicizing and appreciate the works. of so many essential black thinkers? Doesn’t the community deserve a space like this? As a group of black Americans interested in the past that shaped them, don’t they also deserve such a place?
So they spruce up the space (which was actually built on a black box studio in Troy, New York, with every element of the townhouse handpicked by Asili), then invite people in. The house, now dubbed the House of Ubuntu, is brilliantly decorated, with each room painted a different primary color, African patterned fabric hung as window curtains, and the living room transformed into a community library. In a nod to Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film “La Chinoise, ” a poster of the film – about a group of young Maoists in Paris – hangs in the kitchen of Maison d’Ubuntu. And “The Inheritance” follows these characters as they try to live together in community, despite sometimes conflicting personalities. Julian allows his skeptical friend Rich (Chris Jarrell) to move in, but Rich and Gwen can’t stand each other. Stephanie (Aniya Picou) and Gwen become closer friends while living together, with Stephanie complaining to Gwen about a recent date she had with a white woman who expected Stephanie to be in awe of her. interest in black art (“It’s so funny how hurt white people are when they like a black movie and you say you don’t like it”). Musicians Old Head (Julian Rozzell Jr.) and Jamel (Timothy Trumpet Jr.) play together most of the time, which can irritate others at times – like Jamel hogging the bathroom because he loves the sound of the bathroom. acoustics when he plays the trumpet – but inspires too, as he makes roommates Patricia (Nyabel Lual) and Janet (Aurielle Akerele) to learn more about music.