Artist Ephraim Asili describes his feature debut “The Inheritance” as a “speculative re-enactment” of his time in a West Philadelphia Black Marxist collective. The result is an experimental collage that surely name-checks Jean-Luc Godard, and bends genres and time to create a shape-shifting kaleidoscope of Blackness. Acclaimed during its fall festival run including in Toronto and New York, “The Inheritance” arrives from Grasshopper Film in virtual cinemas on March 12. Watch the exclusive trailer below.
Following almost a decade exploring the African diaspora, Asili sets his ensemble work almost entirely within a brightly colored, West Philadelphia house occupied by a community of Black activists and artist. Woven into a documentary recollection of the Philadelphia liberation group MOVE — the victim of a notorious police bombing in 1985 — is a scripted drama of characters working toward political consensus, and grappling with their own interpersonal relationships, romantic and otherwise.
From IndieWire’s TIFF review:
Shot in buzzing 16mm and balanced off with archival news footage, voiceovers, and interviews, “The Inheritance” establishes a documentary framework, only to break it down entirely. At the center of the movie’s nonfiction leanings is MOVE, a Black activist group founded in 1972 that was, in 1985, the victim of a police bombing after the organization was deemed a terrorist organization by Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode and police commissioner Gregore J. Sambor. The parallels to the year 2020 are obvious, but Asili never beats that over your head. And he doesn’t have to.
Infusing this documentary scaffold is a scripted drama staged by Asili centered on a young man, Julian (Eric Lockley), who inherits a sprawling, multi-story house from his grandmother, and decides to, along with his girlfriend Gwen (Nozipho Mclean), refashion the property into a hub for a Black liberationist movement. A poster spotted in one scene of Jean-Luc Godard’s “La Chinoise,” the French director’s 1967 Dostoevsky-inspired story of a group of young Maoist terrorists in Paris, sets the tone for what Asili wants to achieve.
Visually, “The Inheritance” is alive, drunk off the colors and textures of West Philadelphia: its denizens, street murals, the deep history of African American life and Black contributions to the cultural pantheon. But despite the seriousness of the subject, the approach remains wry and irreverent throughout… While Asili has constructed an ambitious and often unsettling narrative, it doubles as a joyous celebration of Blackness, and an invitation for all audiences to contemplate their own inheritance.