Director Robert Mugge spent two years documenting Sun Ra and members of his jazz Arkestra starting in 1979, capturing ensemble performances of their otherworldly music, ancient Egypt- and space age-inspired clothing, and of course Ra’s own poetry and mythological pronouncements. Performance locations include Baltimore’s Famous Ballroom, a rooftop concert at Philadelphia’s International House at the University of Pennsylvania, and intimate rehearsals inside their shared house in Philly. Explaining his dialectics from an iconic position in Washington D.C., Ra illustrates that “I’m sitting in front of the White House looking across the street and I don’t see the black house… See, you can’t have anything without its parallel and its opposite. This is something the people of Earth are unaware of.” A tapestry of Ra and the band’s both blissful and complex energies, the documentary demonstrates the magic and myth of their ethos. As Ra says: “I’m not a part of history, I’m more a part of mystery.” Songs performed include “Astro Black,” “Mister Mystery,” “We Travel the Spaceways,” “Along Came Ra/The Living Myth,” “Spaceship Earth (Destination Unknown),” “Requiem for Trevor Johnson,” and many more.
This film and Space is the Place (November 16th) are both showing in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum exhibition series We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments and its final iteration entitled MONUMENTS. The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra with a special film ticket price of $5. Created in partnership with Deep Underground (Bethlehem Daniel, Madenna Ibrahim, Mia O’Connor-Smith, and Janessa Narciso), MONUMENTS is a multimedia presentation of film, music, and art by Afrofuturist, artist, musician, and philosopher Sun Ra (active on Earth 1934-1993). Film tickets include Museum admission; attendees are encouraged to visit the exhibition ahead of the films.