Future World is a 40-minute court-métrage art-house film conceived as a socially engaged project to
promote youth empowerment, community development and environmental change in the Niger-Delta of Southern Nigeria. This bold and innovative project is conceived by Nigerian-born and Oxford-based artist, filmmaker, and researcher, Wilfred Ukpong, and developed in his co-owned Blazing Century Studios, Nigeria.
Ukpong, a practice-led researcher in Social Sculpture Research Unit Oxford, employs the concept of “Social Sculpture”, developed by 20th century German artist, scholar, and activist Joseph Beuys as an extended conception of art in the process of social transformation. Ukpong works alongside selected talented community youths in a series of creative empowerment workshops using both art and filmmaking as tools of development and social change. Blazing Century 1 (BC1), which Future World is an integral part deals with the context of environmental and social devastation facing the oil-rich Niger-Delta in Southern Nigeria. Ukpong salvages industrial oil and gas waste discarded along this coastline and adaptively repurposes them into innovative art objects and film props.
The film, written, produced and directed by Ukpong is set against the backdrop of a fictional ecologically ravaged dystopian world and explores themes as varied as marginalization, decay, loss, grief, hope, evolution, rebirth and agency. Involving the talents of more than one hundred community youths in the Niger-Delta, the film follows a large group of human-alien hybrids and their relationship with an oil field engineer through perilous expeditions, struggle for their land and their search for Utopia.
The narrative conflates around climate change, environmental pollution, and health-related issues and draws from true-life stories, and regional myths to create a captivating otherworldly abstract universe pulsing with concepts of imagination and transformation and imbued with some of the most profound historical, ecological, and socio-cultural issues of our time. Ukpong appropriates his personal and communal experiences to reimagine a humane, environmentally sustainable and viable future.
With an overarching interest in Afro-futurism, Ukpong’s visual narrative tends to break away from poverty realism often perpetuated by the media through “poverty porn,” which has negatively contributed to the subordinate identity for the African continent. He does this by training and exposing some talented youths to foreign film and drama schools through scholarships programmes offered by his Blazing Century Studios. He further engages and prompts them to reimagine their future while acting in a seemingly sophisticated utopian universe (with high-tech props, opulent costumes, and expensive sets) where their prowess, hopes, and dreams can come alive.
The film scores and soundtracks were composed by Ukpong over the period of two years in his studio in The Netherlands. With the support of students from The Prince Claus Conservatoire of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, Ukpong composed twelve track scores for Future World. With a background in multidisciplinary art practice, he also conceived and developed the production design as well as costumes while giving proper attention to symbolism and visual stylization: the colours red and black reflect the violence of spilled blood and its source, crude oil; white represent purity, while yellow represents the hope for a better future.
Made between 2012 and 2017 with a budget of 1.5 million dollars (NGN 540 Million) in a co-funding
venture between Blazing Century Studios and Thompson and Grace Investment, a leading Indigenous Mechanical Manufacturing/Oil and Gas services company that promotes environmental change in the Niger-Delta. Future World will be screened for the first time in Nigeria at Terra Kulture Lagos and will travel to important international film festivals, limited cinemas, and art exhibitions with the aim of increasing awareness around socio-environmental issues facing the Niger Delta, as well as the presenting exciting creative and economic possibilities within the region.