“Resistance: the battle of philadelphia” is the latest creative work from the mind of independent filmmaker M. Asli Dukan, and to her, it’s more than just a six-episode web series on what resistance could look like with in the future with tech and gadgets.
The series, which is currently crowdfunding online for help with a $15,000 goal, specifically addresses police brutality and stars a fictitious hacker fighting against the injustice in West Philly, where Dukan currently lives. The prologue for the series recently premiered at this month’s BlackStar Film Festival, where “resistance” was a common theme among many of the films shown there.
Check out the short, but tense prologue below:
The movement and protests against police brutality, as well as several other societal issues, are things Dukan participated in more once she moved to Philly from New York, where she was raised and eventually earned her MFA in media and communication arts from the City College of New York.
Now, Dukan, nominated for Geek of the Year at this year’s Philly Geek Awards and a recent recipient of Leeway Foundation’s prestigious Transformation Award, works to create short films that fall under the “speculative fiction” genres — horror, fantasy and science fiction — to tell stories that can help shed light on the problems she sees today in the world.
“I like to work in these genres not just for the creativity but because for me, it’s a way to talk about contemporary issues in a creative way,” she said.
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For Dukan, movies and storytelling have been big passions in her life since she was a child, to the point her mother saw that enthusiasm and bought her a VHS camera so Dukan could start telling her own stories. And while Dukan now has experience in a wide variety of filmmaking, including her time in New York helping her friends shoot music videos, it was the speculative fiction genre where she really found her niche.
And it was that interest that sparked the idea for Dukan to start her work a decade ago on the yet-to-be released documentary “Invisible Universe,” which looks at how Black people have been represented and participated in the genres of speculative fiction.
That work brought her to the Philly area where Dukan said she saw a “rich, vibrant community” of Black people working in the industry, including the local podcast group Black Tribbles, the organizers of the annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention and, of course, Afrofuturism-inspired work behind housing attorney Rasheedah Phillips’ Black Quantum Futurism.
"If you want to change society, you have to have an imagination first."
Dukan said the documentary is in post-production and will hopefully be finished by the end of this year.
The documentary, as well as her other works of fiction, is also about an opportunity to address what she felt as a “bittersweetness” when it came to watching many of these kinds of films as a child — the lack of representation for both Black people and women.
Dukan also feels the need to dedicate more time and space to pondering the hope that “things can be different” — things like the particularly timely issue of white supremacy. It’s something she hopes her films will inspire people to do, in addition to entertaining them.
For Dukan personally, she would like to see an end to police brutality, a government that operates for the people, immigration policy that humanizes people and general inequalities wiped away.
“I’m creating these imaginative scenarios in the work I’m doing to help people understand that if you want to change society, you have to have an imagination first — you have to imagine how things can be different,” she said. “For me, as an artist, it’s my way of contributing to the work of social transformation.”
As for her work and position in Philly as an indie filmmaker, Dukan said the support she has seen from the community is encouraging, whether it’s through small financial contributions or the more unexpected Geek of the Year nomination.
“It really makes me feel like the work I’m trying to do here is a community effort, from beginning to end,” she said. “I feel like being in Philadelphia has offered me an opportunity to really be a part of a community that is trying to push the barriers of social transformation in our society.”